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" We are the advance-giiard of civilization, 
and our way is across the continent." 

James Robertson, 1780. 





bt d. appleton and company. 


The substance of the present yolume was given to 
the public in a course of lectures which the writer de- 
livered before the Lowell Institute, of Boston, in the 
winter of 1887-88. Those lectures are here amplified 
and enlarged into what is intended to be a full narra- 
tive of an episode which is, perhaps, the most unique 
and remarkable in American history. The narrative is 
the result of eight years' careful study of early events 
in the Southwest, nearly four of which years were passed 
upon the ground where the events occurred, and it is 
the writer's sincere conviction that it may be accepted 
as authentic history. To make sure that it should be 
authentic, the proof-sheets of the volume have been 
submitted for revision and correction to the Hon. John 
M. Lea, President of the Tennessee Historical Society, 
the Rev. Dr. John Berrien Lindsley, late Chancellor of 
the University of Nashville, and the Hon. Randall M. 
Ewing — three gentlemen who are undoubtedly better ac- 
quainted with the early history of the Southwest than 
any others now living. They have read carefully this 
volume, and also the writer's two preceding ones on 
collateral subjects — '^ The Rear-Guard of the Revolu- 



tion" and "Jolin Sevier as a Commonwealth-Builder" 
— and their suggestions in regard to them all have been 
followed in the minutest particulars. The writer is 
therefore confident that all that is related in the three 
books will bear the closest scrutiny. Some valuable 
notes furnished to the present volume by Mr. Ewing, 
having been received too late to be embodied in the text, 
are inserted in Appendix B. 

The three volumes cover a neglected period of Ameri- 
can history, and they disclose facts well worthy the at- 
tention of historians — namely, that these Western men 
turned the tide of the American Revolution, and subse- 
quently saved the newly-formed Union from disruption, 
and thereby made possible our present great republic. 
This should be enough to secure for their story an at- 
tentive hearing, had it not the added charm of present- 
ing to view three characters — John Sevier, James Eob- 
ertson, and Isaac Shelby — who are as worthy of the 
imitation of our American youth as any in their coun- 
try's history. 

In the preparation of this volume the writer has had 
the advantage of personal intercourse with the descend- 
ants of the men he portrays, and he has also consulted — 
so far as he knows — all that has been written upon the 
subject. A list of these authorities he has given in the 
preface to "John Sevier as a Commonwealth-Builder." 
In addition to them, in the present book he has made 
use of Gayarre's "Spanish Domination in Louisiana" 
and the "American State Papers," the fifth volume of 


which reports very fully the Indian affairs of that early 
period. He has also in one part of his work received 
valuable aid from John Mason Brown, Esq., of Louis- 
ville, Kentucky. To him, and to Hon. John M. Lea, 
Dr. John Berrien Lindsley, of Nashville, Tennessee, and 
the Hon. Randall M. Ewing, he would here record his 
grateful acknowledgments. 

He will merely add, in the words of William H. 
Stephens : ^'^I speak for that heroic State who was bap- 
tized in her infancy with the sprinkling of Revolutionary 
blood on King's Mountain ; who, five years afterward, 
struck again for independence under the banner of the 
daring young State of Franklin ; who grappled, single- 
handed and alone, for fifty years, with the dusky war- 
riors of the forest in all their battles from the Ken- 
tucky line to the Southern Gulf ; who beat back the 
British legions at New Orleans ; who smote the false 
Spaniard at Pensacola ; who rushed with Taylor into 
the breach at Monterey, and shared in the triumphal 
march from Vera Cruz to Mexico." In this and my two 
preceding volumes I have endeavored to rescue from 
oblivion her earliest and greatest heroes ; and, if I have 
done my work as faithfully as I ought, historians will 
no longer ignore their existence, but be swift to assign 
to them the exalted places to which they are entitled 

in American history. 

James R. Gilmore. 

(Edmund Kirke.) 
New Haven, Connecticut, August, 1888. 




On the Otjtpost8 1 

The important crisis in American affairs when the first settle- 
ments were formed beyond the Alleghanies — The colonies about 
to revolt, and Great Britain preparing to crush them by a front 
and rear assault — The rear attack beaten off by a handful of 
Western settlers — These settlers the advance-guard of Western 
civilization — Their grand qualities — Nothing more heroic in 
their history than their settlement of the district along the 
Cumberland — Their journey across Kentucky to the present site 
of Nashville — Description of the country — The settlers erect a 
fort and organize themselves into a military body — Select loca- 
tions for their dwellings — Perilous voyage of the women and 
children down the Holston and Tennessee — Intended attack of 
the Indians frustrated by the elements — The settlers form a 
civil government — Their mode of life — The first victim to savage 
atrocity — The Indians surround and attempt to starve out the 
settlements — Daring raid of Robertson — The first wedding at 
Nashville — A desperate war — Settlers threatened with starva- 
tion — Inflexible resolution of Robertson — He breaks through 
the Indian lines to secure ammunition — Returns from the peril- 
ous trip in safety and is received with great rejoicing — Attack 
on Freeland's Station beaten off by Robertson — This Robertson's 
last fight with the Chickasaws — He soon afterward meets the 
Chickasaw king, Piomingo, and contracts with him a friendship 
that lasts till his death. 




A Rain of Fiee 29 

The character of James Robertson — His belief that he was 
chosen by Providence to be the forerunner of Western civiliza- 
tion — His unquestioning faith and great moral courage — xV re- 
markable sleet — War breaks out with the Cherokees — The fort 
at Nashville and the life of Robertson saved by the intrepidity 
of his wife — The whole settlement a battle-ground — A hostile 
coalition of the Northern tribes— Perilous state of the settle- 
ments — Instances of heroism — David Hood hoodwinks the In- 
dians — A company of discrowned royalties — The scouts and their 
skill in woodcraft — Great mortality among the settlers — Their 
mode of life in this rain of fire — Settlers propose to abandon 
the colony — This opposed by Robertson. 


The Day dawning 56 

A savage warfare — Thrilling escape of a woman — An unex- 
pected re-enforcement — Toleration of Robertson — News of the 
surrender of Corn wallis — Contemptible treatment of her soldiers 
by North Carolina — Her " bounty " warrants — A renewal of In- 
dian hostilities — The Chickaraaugas attack Buchanan's Station 
— Peace made with the Cherokees — The settlers abandon the 
forts and dwell in their homesteads — North Carolina erects 
the settlements into a county — Nashville prospers — Robertson 
elected to the Legislature — Establishes a court — Some of its en- 
actments — A distillery erected — A primitive currency — Pioneer 
preachers — A road opened to Clinch River — A store opened at 
Nashville — Cloudless prospects, but a storm brewing. 


A Raid upon the Creeks 77 

Spanish complications — Importance of the Cumberland colony 
as holding disputed territory — Prophetic views of the Spanish 
minister — McGillivray, the Creek chief, calls the attention of 
Spain to the danger threatened by the settlers to her North 
American possessions — The character and appearance of this 



man — He forms a treaty with the Spaniards and attempts to 
combine the Southern tribes for the extermination of the set- 
tlers — Builds a station on the Tennessee, whence he makes con- 
stant raids upon the Cumberland — The station discovered by 
Piomingo, who informs Robertson — His narrow escape from 
death at the hands of the Indians — The watchful sagacity of 
the settlers' dogs — Letter of Piomingo to Robertson, which in- 
forms him of the hostility of Spain — He sends two of his chiefs 
to guide Robertson to McGillivray's station — The Coldwater ex- 
pedition and defeat of the Creeks — Extraordinary endurance of 
Hugh Rogan. 


Daek Day8 upon the Cumberland 106 

McGillivray resolves upon an overwhelming effort to extermi- 
nate the Cumberland colony — Aid given to Robertson by Sevier, 
which enables him to beat off the attack — Activity and sleepless 
vigilance of the scouts — Remonstiance of Robertson to the 
Legislature — His memorial respectfully considered and the set- 
tlers fully authorized to take care of themselves — Robertson 
sends peace messengers to McGillivray — The embassy courte- 
ously received, but the war continues — Murder of Colonel An- 
thony Bledsoe — Intrepidity of Hugh Rogan — How Colonel 
Bledsoe wrote his will — Robertson retorts upon McGillivray his 


The Spanish Complication 125 

A wider view of the situation — The Cumberland colony only 
the advance-guard of a larger host who were scaling the Alle- 
ghanies — A convention in Kentucky and its results — Importance 
to the settlers of the navigation of the Mississippi — John Jay's 
negotiations with the Spanish envoy, Gardoqui — Jay proposes 
to Congress to yield the navigation of the Mississippi for twenty 
years — The proposition received with uni\ersal indignation at 
the West — Open talk in Kentucky of forming an independ- 
ent government — The opportunity favorable for an ambitious 
man, unscrupulous as to means — Such a man appears in James 
Wilkinson — His career and disreputable course in the army — 



The war over, he seeks a fresh field for his activity in Ken- 
tucky — His plan to secure an exclusive right to navigate the 


The Treason of Wilkinson 145 

How he made his attempt to capture the Spanish trade— His 
bribe to Gayoso — Sends a load of produce down the Mississippi 
and follows it by land to New Orleans — His produce saved from 
seizure by Daniel Clark — His reception by Governor Miro — 
Porms an agreement with him to swing Kentucky into the arms 
of Spain — Returns to Kentucky with a permit for unrestricted 
trade with New Orleans — Wins over to his treasonable design 
some of the leading men in Kentucky — A convention called for 
July 28, 1788, to consider the separation of Kentucky from 
Virginia — Wilkinson seduces a majority of the delegates to 
then vote the district out of the Union — Character and influence 
of Isaac Shelby — The Spanish minister sends an envoy to John 
Sevier with overtures of an alliance with Spain — Sevier draws 
from the envoy a disclosure of Wilkinson's project, and warns 
Shelby of it in time for the latter to frustrate his treason — Wil- 
kinson's account of the proceedings of the convention to Miro, 
which fully reveals his treason. 


A Deceitful Peace 182 

Miro's long-continued overtures to Robertson — Correspond- 
ence of General Daniel Smith with the Spanish governor — Robert- 
son refuses all dealings with the Spaniards— His remarkable letter 
to John Sevier, and incorruptible patriotism — His narrow escape 
— Andrew Jackson's first military exploit — His original orthog- 
raphy — News arrives of the adoption of the Constitution, and 
inauguration of Washington — Great rejoicing among the settlers 
in consequence — Treaty with the Creeks and Cherokees — Popu- 
lation of the Cumberland colony — Great increase in the number 
of stations — Sevier's view of the Indians. 

CONTEi^TS. xi 



Affairs in Kentucky — Miro sets a watch upon Wilkinson, who, 
though appointed to the United States Army, continues his 
treasonable connection with the Spaniards — Large influx of im- 
migration — Washington's fruitless overtures to Spain — Treach- 
ery of McGillivray — Cherokee spies appear in the settlements — 
War begins \\ith several bloody butcheries — General uprising of 
the people — Another narrow escape of Robertson — Heroic re- 
pulse of seven hundred Indians by fifteen men and thirty women 
behind the log walls of Buchanan's Station — Among the rescuers 
a stripling, named Joseph Brown, who is instrumental in crush- 
ing the Chickamaugas. 


Captivity among the Chickamaugas 227 

The treacherous murder of Colonel Brown and his oldest sons 
near Nick-a-jack Cave — His younger son, Joseph, made captive 
— He is about to be killed by a chief, who predicts that if al- 
lowed to live he will pilot an army there and destroy them all, 
but is saved by a wretched Frenchwoman — Is held in captivity 
nearly a year, and endures innumerable hardships, but is then 
ransomed by John Sevier — After four years removes to the 
Cumberland, and offers to guide Robertson to the secret haunts 
of the Chickamaugas. 


Spanish Maohixations 244 

Two more years of savage warfare on the Cumberland — Only 
fifteen of the original settlers had escaped slaughter — Evan 
Shelby, Isaac Bledsoe, and three brothers of the scout Castle- 
man are killed — Retaliatory raid of Castleman — Heroic exploits 
of Jonathan Robertson and " Grandma Hays " — Joseph Brown 
is wounded — The settlers appeal to be led against the Chicka- 
maugas — The attitude of the State Department — Carondelet now 
Spanish governor —His energy and overtures to the Indians — 
Engages the Cherokees in the hostilities against Robertson — 



Piomingo's letters to Robertson, who supplies him with arms 
and ammunition — Impudent letter of Carondelet to Robertson, 
and his courteous reply — Spanish intrigues against Piomingo, 
and his reported assassination. 


The Chickamauga Expedition 275 

The Spaniards form an extensive coalition of the Indians 
against the Americans — Robertson induces the Legislature to 
ask the protection of Congress, which body adjourns without 
acting on the subject — In these circumstances Robertson de- 
cides upon an expedition against the Chickamaugas — He sends 
for Joseph Brown, who explores a route through the forest to 
Nick-a jack, and then guides an army of five hundred and fifty 
men to the destruction of the Chickamauga towns — Robertson's 
report of the expedition to the governor — Dissatisfaction of the 
Government, and resignation of Robertson as brigadier-general 
— The justification of his course by Congress. 

Piomingo 293 

His unexpected appearance on the Cumberland — Leads a body 
of warriors to the help of General Wayne — The Creeks continue 
their warfare — Attack on Valentine Sevier's station — Unpleas- 
ant correspondence between Governor Blount and Secretary 
Pickering— Hostilities between the Creeks and Chickasaws— 
Robertson gives aid to Piomingo in arms and men — The Creeks 
attack the Chickasaw capital, and are ignominiously repulsed — 
Piomingo offers the Creeks peace, which they accept, but their 
younger warriors treacherously invade the Chickasaw country — 
They are again repulsed, and a genuine peace is then brought 
about through the influence of Gayoso and Robertson. 

Conclusion 311 

Efforts of Genet, the French minister, to arouse the West to 
drive the Spaniards from Louisiana — George Rogers Clark 


speedily enlists over two thousand men for an expedition against 
New Orleans — Carondelet, thoroughly alarmed, makes hasty 
preparations for defense, and sends an emissary to Kentucky 
to renew the attempt at disunion made in 1788— Remonstrance 
of the Spanish minister against the hostile preparations in Ken- 
tucky — Jefferson urges Governor Shelby to put down the move- 
ment — Shelby's curious logic —Washington sends a special mes- 
senger to Shelby, and the hostile expedition is abandoned— The 
Spanish Cabinet, alarmed at the threatening attitude of Western 
affairs, and the undisguised hostility of Shelby, now concludes a 
treaty which opens the Mississippi to American commerce — A 
general peace follows, in which the Cumberland colony is aston- 
ishingly prosperous— Its enormous increase in fifty years— Rob- 
ertson a private citizen, but still the patriarch of the settle- 
ments— His friendship with Sevier, and influence over the Choc- 
taws and Chickasaws— His residence among the Chickasaws at 
a critical period, and last services to his country— His character 
and death. 




The crisis was great in American affairs when the 
first Western settlers took their way across the Allegha- 
nies. The country was on the eve of the Revolution. 
The revolted colonies were about to engage in a death- 
grapple with the gigantic power across the ocean. Not 
less than fifty thousand savage warriors beyond the 
mountains were to be enlisted by that power to descend 
upon the rear of the colonists, while its regular forces 
should undertake the subjugation of the seaboard. In- 
folded thus in the coils of an anaconda, it was expected 
that the infant republic would be strangled in its cradle ; 
and this result might have been realized, but for the 
gathering of a small band of riflemen upon the banks of 
the Watauga, along the western base of the Alleghanies. 
That handful of riflemen beat back the rear assault. On 
three distinct occasions they cut the anaconda coil in 


which the British sought to enveloj^ and crush the strug- 
gling colonies, and so securely did they hold the mount- 
ain-passes that in all the war no savage hand ever broke 
through to carry the torch and the tomahawk to the 
seaboard settlements. Thus were they the immovable 
rear-guard of the Eevolution. And they were more 
than that. 

They were the advance-guard of Western civiliza- 
tion. They hewed out a pathway through the wilder- 
ness for the uncounted millions who are to people the 
western half of this continent ; and they did this while 
exposed by day and by night, for more than twenty 
years, to the assaults of a foe more crafty, cruel, and 
treacherous than any ever encountered in modern times. 
They plowed their fields with an armed sentry beside 
them, and never went to their beds, or gathered to re- 
ligious worship, without the trusty rifle within reach of 
their hands. A race less heroic would have succumbed 
to the hardships and dangers they encountered ; but in 
them hardship merely developed endurance, and danger 
a courage that was without fear, and swift to grapple with 
enemies of twenty times their number. And they were 
not merely hard toilers and brave fighters ; they were 
thinking men, with clear ideas of civil policy, and so gen- 
erally educated that not more than one of them among 
a hundred has handed his name down to us signed with 
a cross. No people without their peculiar qualities 
could have been the pioneers of the hundred mill- 
ions of freemen who are to occupy the valleys of the 


Mississippi and its tributaries before the close of another 

Nothing more heroic is recorded of these joeople than 
the migration of three hundred and eighty of their num- 
ber from Watauga into the wilds of West Tennessee, under 
the lead of James Robertson, in the winter of 1780. They 
left the ease and security of a well-ordered settlement, 
and, for a second time, encountered the perils of unknown 
forests and rivers, to found a civilized community in the 
heart of an untrodden wilderness, where they would be 
surrounded by savage enemies, and three hundred miles 
remote from the most westerly white settlement. It was 
the coldest winter ever known on this continent; their 
way would be beset by lurking enemies, and they far be- 
3^ond all human succor ; yet they set out trusting only in 
God, their own strong arms, and their unerring rifles. 
One hundred and thirty of them were women and chil- 
dren. Tliese, unable to endure the fatigue of the long 
overland journey, were sent, under John Donelson and a 
guard of thirty men, in boats down the Holston and Ten- 
nessee ; while the remainder, under Robertson, followed 
the five-hundred-mile trace which had been blazed by 
hunters through the woods of Kentucky. Their destina- 
tion was what was then known as the French Lick of the 
Cumberland ; and it was expected that the party under 
Robertson would arrive long enough in advance of the 
other to have in readiness homes for the reception of the 
coming women and children. 

Robertson's party set out from Watauga about the 


1st of November, 1779 ; but the route through the 
woods soon became deep with snow, and, encumbered as 
they were with cattle, and pack-horses laden with pro- 
visions and farming-utensils, their progress was slow, 
and they did not arrive at the Cumberland till Christ- 
mas-day in 1779. They suffered much from cold on 
the way, and found the river frozen so solid as to admit 
of the passing over of their animals. Crossing at once, 
they began building on the bluff that lines the southern 
bank the fort and the half-score of log-houses which 
were the nucleus of the present capital of Tennessee. 

The place is beautiful for situation. The bluff 
is of a height of from sixty to eighty feet, and at 
its base flows a wide and winding river ; while away 
at the south and southwest rises a chain of conical hills, 
crowned then with towering oaks, walnuts, and poplars, 
which had stood there for untold centuries. On both 
banks of the river lies a valley about twenty miles in 
width, its surface undulating, but ascending in long- 
gradual slopes, here and there dotted with isolated 
eminences. One of these, covering several acres, and 
resembling a huge burial-mound, breaks abruptly but 
symmetrically from the plain and overlooks all the sur- 
rounding country. It is now the site of the Capitol 
building, and is distant about half a mile from where 
the fort was located. Other hills, rising still higher, 
and at greater distances, seem designed by Nature for 
fortifications, and events have fulfilled the design ; for 
their crumbling breastworks bear to-day the names of 


Negley, Morton, and Casino, which have become famous 
in recent history. 

All these hills were, at the period of which I write, 
covered with thick forests, while on the bluffs, and along 
the margin of two narrow streams which flow down from 
the encircling hills, were wide brakes of cane, standing 
ten and twenty feet high — excellent fodder for cattle, but 
at the same time secure hiding-places for the settler's lurk- 
ing enemies. Dense woods covered the country in every 
direction, except around the fort, and the spring which 
gave name to the place. There a few heaps of decaying 
logs showed where the French hunters under Oharlville 
had built their cabins in 1714 ; and the trodden cane 
told of the countless herds of deer and buffalo which 
had frequented the spring for innumerable ages. These 
two facts had given the name of French Lick to the 
locality. The soil was deep and fertile, and the land 
abundantly watered ; and seen, when covered with foli- 
age, the spot would have been most inviting to a settler. 
But now it was everywhere clad in ice and snow — one 
broad expanse of frozen magnificence, silent, cheer- 
less, and desolate. Firm of purpose and stout of heart 
must the men have been who could set about building 
their homes in such an icy wilderness, encompassed as 
it was by a cloud of savage enemies. 

The fort erected, the two hundred and twenty-six set- 
tlers already arrived organized themselves into a mili- 
tary body, electing Eobertson colonel, John Donelson 
lieutenant-colonel, Robert Lucas major, and George Free- 


land, Isaac Bledsoe, James Lapier, Andrew Buchanan, 
and John Rains, cajifcains. Donelson was still away 
with the women and children ; but all of these men 
were yet to write their names in a bloody history. Thus 
organized, the settlers separated, to select locations and 
prepare homes for their coming families. Twenty miles 
of fertile country was within sight of the fort ; but, 
having the pioneer's ideas of space, they spread for forty 
miles up and down the Cumberland, and located their 
lands around no less than eight *' stations" — stockades, 
inclosing block-houses, and strong enough to resist as- 
sault from any small band of Indians. In the event of 
attack from a large body it was expected the settlers 
would concentrate at the Bluff, where the fort was 
intended to be strong enough to resist any number of 
assailants that would be likely to come against it. Robert- 
son, however, discouraged this scattering of the settlers. 
"Keep in sight of the bluff," he said, ^^ where we can 
see your signal-fire or hear your alarm-gun. The out- 
lying stations will be the first to invite the savages ; and 
if you are too far away we shall not know of an attack, 
or be able to come to the rescue." It had been well for 
the settlers if they had heeded these words of Robertson. 
Some of the outlying stations were not only far away, 
but hastily or carelessly constructed. Those built under 
Robertson's own eye were patterned after the one erected 
by John Sevier at "Watauga, which had withstood assault 
from a strong force under the Cherokee king, Oconostota. 
These were the one at the Bluff ; another at Eaton's, 


two and a lialf miles away on the northern bank of the 
river ; and a smaller one at Freeland's, a mile distant at 
the west, and near the location selected by Robertson. 
The stations erected, the settlers waited in anxious 
suspense for the coming of their wives and children. 
The three months allowed for their voyage had expired, 
but the sound of their approach had not yet broken the 
stillness of the river solitudes. Had they fallen victims 
to the prowling savage, or perished of the cold that had 
slain the deer, the catamount, and even the wild tur- 
keys, with which the woods abounded ? The settlers 
did not know and could not conjecture ; and for a full 
month they went silently about, oppressed by harrow- 
ing apprehensions. Thus it was till the close of April, 
when spring had come, unlocking the river, and cloth- 
ing the woods in an umbrageous beauty that was won- 
derful. Then, as the sun arose one glorious morning, 
a solitary four-pounder echoed along the Cumberland, 
and a few hours thereafter the little fleet of forty scows, 
canoes, and pirogues came to anchor under the walls of 
Eaton's Station, amid such rejoicing as never before was 
known in the wilderness. But all the immigrants had 
not arrived in safety. Thirty-three had perished by 
the way, and, of those who escaped, nine were more or 
less wounded. Among those who had come through 
were the wife and five children of Eobertson ; the 
mother of the late Hon. Bailie Peyton ; and Donelson, 
and his son John, and daughter Rachel, who subse- 
quently became the wife of Andrew Jackson. 


The voyage has no parallel in modern history. Nearly 
two thousand miles they had journeyed, in frail boats, 
upon unknown and dangerous rivers, never before navi- 
gated by a white man. The country through which 
they passed was infested by hostile Indians, and their 
way had been over foaming whirlpools and dangerous 
shoals thirty miles in extent, where for days they had run 
the gantlet and been exposed to the fire of the whole 
nation of Chickamaugas, the fiercest Indian tribe on this 
continent. For more than a month they were unable 
to move because of the intense cold, and one of their 
number was frozen to death on the passage. Of the 
other dead, one was drowned, one was burned by the 
Indians, and the rest fell by the rifle and tomahawk of 
the savages. The flight of the Tartar tribe across the 
steppes of Asia, Xenophon's famous anabasis of the 
Ten Thousand, or Kane's heroic struggle for life in the 
arctic regions, is not a more thrilling story than the 
simple narrative of this expedition, which John Donel- 
son has left to his descendants. In it he says the voyage 
was "intended by God's permission" ; clearly not a soul 
could have come safely through it but by God's special 

Thus, amid ice, and snow, and the intense cold of 
1780, was planted the first civilized settlement in the 
valley of the Mississippi, where soon will be the center 
of American population. The settlers, as I have said, 
were in the heart of a wide wilderness, and surrounded 
by hostile savages. They were encroachers upon the 


favorite hunting-ground of the Indians, especially valued 
by them for the abundant game that subsisted on the 
luxuriant vegetation of the great natural park which 
stretches from the Cumberland to the Ohio, and is now 
familiarly known as the "blue-grass region." Moreover, 
their position was peculiarly exposed to incursions from 
the savages. It was accessible by water from the most 
distant tribes. Descending navigation could bring upon 
it from the Ohio and Mississippi the canoe - fleets of 
the northern nations ; while down the Tellico, the Hi- 
wassee, and the Tennessee could come nearly ten thou- 
sand Creeks and Cherokees, and, uniting at the Bluff 
before the whites had erected their forts and stockades, 
these Indians, twenty thousand strong, might in one 
night sweep the settlers from existence. All the savage 
tribes were now in friendship with one another, and in 
alliance with Great Britain. They knew every move- 
ment of the whites, and their wildest energies and 
fiercest passions were aroused by this invasion of the 
red man's Eden, which they justly regarded as the sig- 
nal for their own expulsion. "Why, then, did they not 
descend upon the settlers and annihilate them before 
they were in a position to defend themselves ? 

They intended to have done so. In his stronghold 
at Detroit, the British Governor, Hamilton, had planned 
their extermination. "We will make wolf -bait of 
them," he said; "we will drive every rebel beyond the 
Alleghanies ! " He had concerted for a universal upris- 
ing of the savages, and appointed a general gathering of 


the tribes at the mouth of the Tennessee, whence they 
were to descend upon the entire border. But George 
Eogers Clark came upon him at Vincennes, clapped 
him into irons, and he was now safely lodged in the 
jail at Williamsburg, Virginia. Thus ingloriously ter- 
minated the bloody career of the ruthless British 

However, the Indians were not without able leaders, 
like Oconostota, who had shown great military capacity. 
.They would have made the onslaught, even after the 
capture of Hamilton, had they not encountered a greater 
enemy than Eobertson, greater even than Sevier, whom 
they regarded as well-nigh invincible. Sevier had para- 
lyzed the Creeks and Cherokees by the capture of their 
arms and ammunition at Chickamauga, but the north- 
ern tribes had been well provided by Hamilton. They 
planned to let Sevier alone, and to fall in overpowering 
numbers upon Robertson. But " the stars in their 
courses fought against Sisera," and the elements did 
battle for the handful of adventurous white men shiver- 
ing there upon the Cumberland. The cold, which set 
in during December with such severity as to give Eob- 
ertson anxious thoughts about the absent women and 
children, destroyed the game, and imprisoned the sav- 
ages within their wigwams. There, half -clad and alto- 
gether starved, they perished by hundreds. It was more 
than they could do to keep their own souls and bodies 
together, and they left the settlers unmolested. Thus 
the one auspicious moment passed away from the sav- 


ages. Thenceforth the faith, and firmness, and heroism 
of Kobertson would suflBce to hold that lone outpost in 
the wilderness. In these events, as they gradually dis- 
closed themselves, Kobertson saw the hand of Provi- 
dence. "God is on our side," he said to his comrades. 
"We will not fear, for mightier is he that is with us 
than all who can come against us." 

The women and children of the settlers were no 
sooner domiciled in their rude abodes than Robertson 
called all the men together to the Bluff to settle upon 
a form of civil government. They were within the 
territory of North Carolina, but seven hundred miles 
from its seat of government, and separated from it 
by more than three hundred miles of forest, which 
was without a human inhabitant. Of necessity, there- 
fore, the settlers had to be self-governing, as well as self- 
defending, and in every way an independent commu- 
nity. Accordingly, a "compact of government" was 
drawn up, and twelve men were elected to administer 
it, Eobertson being chosen president of the colony. 
This document was found in 1846 in an old trunk 
which had belonged to one of the original twelve, and 
it is now in possession of the Tennessee Historical So- 
ciety. It is a remarkable paj^er, so comprehensive, so 
wise in its provisions, and so exactly adapted to the 
circumstances of the settlement, that it alone would 
rank Robertson as an able organizer and statesman. It 
is dated May 1, 1780, and was signed by two hundred and 
fifty-six settlers, all but one of whom wrote their names 


in good, fair English. There is here space for but one 
of its paragraphs, which is as follows : 

" The well-being of this country depends, under di- 
vine Proyideuce, on unanimity of sentiment and concur- 
rence in measures ; and as clashing interests and opin- 
ions, unless under some restraint, will most certainly 
produce confusion, discord, and almost certain ruin, so 
we think it our duty to associate, and hereby form our- 
selves into one society for the benefit of present and 
future settlers ; and, until the full and proper exercise of 
the laws of our country can be in use and the powers of 
government exerted among us, we do most solemnly and 
sacredly declare and promise each other that we will 
faithfully and punctually adhere to, perform, and abide 
by this our association, and at all times, if need be, 
compel, by our united force, a due obedience to these 
our rules and regulations." 

The settlers now went to work to plant their corn 
and provide themselves with food for the coming season. 
Trees were felled or girdled, ground was broken up, 
crops were sown and planted, and soon was heard every- 
where the cheerful voice of the husbandman. Game, 
too, speedily made its appearance ; deer, bear, and buf- 
falo came into the forest, and flocks of wild turkeys at 
times almost darkened the atmosphere. These last, with 
the wild rabbit, came so near the dwellings as to be an 
easy prey to the settler ; and it was seldom that he had 
not game upon his dinner-table. The larger animals kept 
at greater distances, and were usually hunted by parties 


of from ten to twenty ; for, though the few Delawares 
who had appeared about the stations had seemed friend- 
ly, it was not deemed prudent to venture far from the 
forts, except in bodies large enough to meet any rov- 
ing band of Indians. Such expeditions were, however, 
often undertaken, for the meat of the bear, deer, and 
buffalo, dried and jerked, made excellent provision for 
the coming winter. The game was abundant ; but the 
exploits of some of these hunting-parties read altogether 
like romance. One is said to have gone some twenty 
miles up one of the branches of the Cumberland, and to 
have soon returned with its canoes laden with ninety 
deer, one hundred and fifty bears, and seventy-five buffa- 
loes. Thus were the larders of the settlers filled to over- 

Most civilized men have tasted of venison, but few 
have feasted upon the flesh of the bear or the buffalo ; 
and yet we have the word of these pioneers that buffalo- 
tongue and bear-steak are more delicious viands — of far 
more delicate flavor and juicy richness — than the haunch 
of the deer. And bear's oil ! — according to them, butter 
is not to be compared with it, and this, perhaps, shows 
that the Anglo-Saxon, in a state of nature, is very near 
of kin to the Esquimau. But much depends upon the 
cooking, and there were cooks among these people — fa- 
mous housewives, who could brown a hoe-cake or broil a 
bear-steak in a manner fit for a ruler. And hoe-cakes 
were yet to be had among them ; for, owing to the provi- 
dent forethought of Robertson, who, against their com- 


ing, had the previous season planted and harvested a 
liberal crop of corn, they still had an abundance of that 
grain, which at that time was so scarce in all the Western 
settlements as to command one hundred and sixty-five 
dollars per bushel at Boonesborough. 

Thus the settlers abode in peace, abundance, and 
primitive simplicity, their days given to cheerful toil, 
their nights to social and intellectual enjoyment, while 
they gathered around the huge fireplaces of their rude 
forts, feeling as secure behind their walls of logs as ever 
baron in his rock-built fortress of the middle ages. On 
such occasions they would listen to Eobertson or some of 
the older men as they read from a choice book, or dis- 
cussed the affairs of the settlement, or the unhappy fate 
of their friends over the mountains, who were still wrest- 
ling in a death-grip with the mighty power across the 
ocean. Or perhaps the fiddler would be among them, 
and he would strike up some old-fashioned tune which, 
getting into the legs of the younger people, would set 
them upon the puncheon floor, to dance away till the 
stars grew pale in the light of the morning. 

But what is that solitary gun sounding so faint and 
far away in the still evening twilight ? The dwellers in 
the fort pause and listen. ^^ Some one is late in winging 
his turkey for to-morrow's dinner," is the general opin- 
ion ; but "No," says Robertson. '^ A white man does 
not fire with so light a charge of powder. It is an In- 
dian gun. The rascals are around us ! " 

The gates were closed, and a sentry was kept all 


night on the lookout. But no alarm occurred. A still- 
ness as of death hung over the hills and the adjacent 
forest. It was the calm which j^recedes a storm. In 
the morning the gates were unlocked, and, rifle in hand, 
a party of thirty went out to scour the undergrowth and 
canebrakes. They found no trace of savage footsteps 
around the fort, or within half a mile of it in any direc- 
tion ; but it was not long before a shrill whistle echoed 
among the trees, and, following the sound, the settlers 
gathered to one who had struck the trail of a large 
body of Indians. There was no mistaking the sign — 
the print of the moccasin, pointing forward straight 
as a rifle-barrel. The party numbered five hundred — too 
many for a hunting-party. Should the thirty follow 
on their trail, or return to the fort, and wait there the 
coming of the savages ? But the Indians were headed 
north, toward Mansker's, one of the weaker and more 
remote of the stations. If come upon unawares, its 
occupants would be butchered without warning. So it 
was that Robertson in a few moments said, *' Forward ! " 
Silently, with bated breath and muffled footsteps, 
their ears awake to the lighest sound, and their eyes 
ranging the matted undergrowth, the little party moved 
on over the trail of the savages till, at the end of 
another half-mile, they came suddenly upon a prostrate 
body. It was that of a young man named Joseph Hay, 
one of their comrades. He had been scalped and horri- 
bly mangled. Silently they gathered round the body, 
and then in low tones Eobertson gave his orders. Two 


by two, about one half of the party, should set out at 
once, to warn all people at the outlying stations to 
come to the Bluff or Eaton's Station, while he and the 
rest bore the body back to the fort, and gave it suit- 
able burial. This they did, and it was the first inter- 
ment in the cemetery at Nashville. 

Though most of the settlers had been reared upon 
the border, very few of them had ever seen the remains 
of one who had been scalped and mutilated by the sav- 
ages. Sevier's custom of carrying war into the enemy's 
country had kept such sights of blood away from Wa- 
tauga ; and now a thrill of indignant horror ran through 
the colony as one after another came to gaze upon 
the mangled body of the unfortunate youth, who had 
thus fallen their first victim to savage atrocity. The 
settlers were aflame with excitement. Eapidly they 
came in from the outlying stations, and loudly they 
clamored to be led against the enemy. But Robertson 
counseled caution and prudence. Behind the walls of 
the forts they were in absolute security, but a disaster 
in the open field might endanger the whole settlement ; 
and they did not know the strength of the enemy. He 
was as much aroused as the others, but he never allowed 
passion to override reason. He counseled them to watch 
and wait ; but, should occasion require, he would move 
with celerity and destruction. 

The Indians made no general attack on any of the 
forts. Their tactics were to surround the stations, cut 
off such individuals and small parties as ventured be- 


yond rifle-shot of the stockades, and to capture and 
drive off the cattle and horses of the settlers. These 
animals were indispensable to the whites. Without 
horses the men could not plow the land or harvest 
their crops ; and without milk the women could not 
enjoy their spruce-gum tea, or indulge once a week in 
the supreme luxury of a bowl of coffee. One cloudy 
night a large body of savages descended upon the Bluff, 
and drove off every one of the horses. So little noise 
was made, that the sentinels at the fort did not hear a 
footfall — merely a slight commotion among the animals 
of which they thought nothing. The loss was not dis- 
covered until morning. Then, taking only Andrew 
Buchanan and eighteen others — lest he should too much 
weaken the garrison — Eobertson followed on the trail of 
the marauders. Forty miles he went through the path- 
less forest, alive with enemies, and at last overtook the 
band, numbering a hundred and more, as they were 
going into camp on the bank of Duck Eiver. *'Give 
them one fire," he said to his men, '^'then club your 
rifles, and down upon them ! " Taken by surprise, the 
Indians made no resistance. A dozen were shot as they 
fled ; the others scattered to the four winds, leaving 
their own and the settlers' horses behind them. 

The Indians continued these depredations, and it 
became a matter of dispute among the captains who 
should head a pursuit ; for each one was eager to go, 
and all insisted that Eobertson's life was of too much 
value to be hazarded on such expeditions. Buchanan 


was the first to lead another party, and then Lapier ; 
and both returned successfully. The latter was a man 
of reckless courage, rollicking humor, and so rhythmical 
an ear that he acquired the title of the poet of the 
backwoods. On this occasion he claimed to have killed 
a prominent chieftain. 

"The red-skin imp, 
I made him limp," 

was what he said, as he recounted the incidents of the 
expedition on the occasion of his wedding at the fort, a 
few days afterward. For there was '^eating and drink- 
ing, marrying and giving in marriage " even during the 
bloody carnival that was then going on along the Cum- 

This was the first wedding in Nashville, and, as no 
clergyman had yet come into the settlement, Robertson 
oflBciated at the ceremony. It was a joyous time, and 
unique in its primitive simplicity. An old chronicle 
says of it : ^^ There was pretty. much of a feast at this 
wedding, and a most cheerful company. They had no 
wine or ardent spirits ; they had no wheat or corn- 
bread, no cakes, no confectionaries ; but they had any 
quantity of fresh and dried meat, buffalo-tongue, bear- 
meat, venison-saddle, and venison-ham, broiled, stewed, 
fried, and jerked, and, as a great delicacy for the ladies, 
some roasting-ears, or ears of green corn roasted, or 
boiled, or made into succotash." 

Meanwhile the bloody work went on, but I need not 


recount its incidents. It is enough to say that, out of 
those two hundred and fixty-six men, thirty-nine, one 
by one, in the short period of sixty days, perished. In 
fact, during the entire year only one of the settlers died 
a death natural to humanity. But what strikes us with 
most wonder is that, in the midst of this human holo- 
caust, there was light-hearted gayety throughout the 
settlements. These men seem to have been insensible to 
fear, and to have delighted in danger. With ready 
alacrity, and at desperate odds, they rushed into battle 
with the savages. Steady and undaunted in defense, they 
were impetuous and irresistible in attack. With the 
** Tennessee yell " they had learned of Sevier, they would 
swoop like a whirlwind upon the enemy, never asking or 
expecting quarter. It was always a life-and-death strug- 
gle. Never did one submit to be captured. Not a soli- 
tary case of cowardice is reported ; but there are num- 
berless instances of individual bravery, of disinterested 
friendship, and self-sacrificing devotion, that will com- 
pare with the most heroic achievements in history. In 
the most perilous crises there were always bold spirits 
ready to break the cordon of savage fire, to secure food 
for a hungry garrison. And the heroism of the men 
infected the women and children, and even the negro 
servants, as was instanced when Somerset, a slave of 
Colonel Donelson, swam the swollen Cumberland, and 
ran the gantlet of a hundred Indian rifles, to bring 
rescue to his young master, who had been surprised and 
surrounded at Clover Bottom. 


But a foe more to be dreaded than the Indians was 
soon upon the settlers. It was starvation — a lingering 
death behind the walls of their log-fortresses. An un- 
precedented freshet came in the Cumberland, almost 
converting the Bluff into an island, and submerging and 
destroying all the crops along the river. The grain 
around the inland stations had been left to waste when 
they were deserted by the settlers, and now it was cer- 
tain death for any party, however strong, to venture out 
on a hunting expedition. Added to this, their supply 
of powder was well-nigh exhausted. In these circum- 
stances the stoutest-hearted began to quail, and, on one 
pretext or another, to slip away from the settlements. 
They could face the savages, but not this foe with hol- 
low eye, and gaunt frame, and sallow visage. Out of 
the two hundred and seventeen who had been left by 
the tomahawk of the Indians, only one hundred and 
thirty-four answered to the roll-call at the three stations 
in N'ovember, 1780. Even Donelson and Kains aban- 
doned their posts, though only for a time, to convey 
their familes to a place of safety in the older settle- 
ments. That done, they returned, and again cast in 
their lot with their comrades. 

It was a time of anxious thought and gloomy fore- 
boding when the remaining settlers came together to the 
Bluff to decide whether they should abandon the post 
or stand their ground against the many perils by which 
they were environed. The boldest among them were 
wavering and disheartened, and all eyes were turned 


upon their leader, when with stern faces they gathered 
around him in their log-fortress. Then it is reported 
that he arose, and, slowly and deliberately, like one 
who weighed his every word, and knew that life or 
death hung upon his sentences, he addressed them. He 
admitted that their numbers were few, their defenses 
weak, their ammunition well-nigh spent, their provisions 
all but exhausted, and they were encompassed by savage 
enemies, who only delayed attack till starvation should 
so enfeeble them that they would be an easy prey to 
overwhelming numbers ; but, he added, in a tone of 
inflexible resolution, ^*My station is here, and here I 
shall stay if every one of you deserts me ! " 

The spirit that spoke through the man gave new 
heart to his desponding comrades. With one accord 
they all declared they would remain, and meet with him 
whatever was before them. Then Eobertson volunteered 
to himself break through the Indian lines into Ken- 
tucky to secure the niuch -needed ammunition. One of 
his own sons, Isaac Bledsoe, his trusted friend, and 
a faithful negro servant, accompanied him. Thus, as 
once before on the Watauga, did Kobertson cast himself 
into the breach to save his fellow-settlers. 

At once the four set out on the perilous expedition. 
It was a trip of a couple of months through a trackless 
forest. If they succeeded in passing the Indian lines, 
they could scarcely hope their trail would escape the 
notice of the savages. Without doubt they would be 
followed ; and they might be overtaken and waylaid by 


overwhelming numbers. This was the prospect before 
Eobertson. Behind him he was leaving a wife, soon to 
become a mother, and exposed to innumerable dangers. 
He might perish by the way, or he might return to find 
her slaughtered by the savages. Truly these were times 
that "tried men's souls," and it was well for Western 
civilization that there were here heroic souls equal to 
such ordeals. 

The little party passed the Indian lines in safety, and 
in due time arrived at Harrod's Station, now Harrods- 
burg, Kentucky. Here they received the first tidings in 
many months of the war upon the seaboard. King's 
Mountain had been fought, and Cornwallis was fleeing 
toward Charleston. *^ Both Eobertson and I," said Bled- 
soe, "were a foot taller when we heard of the glorious 
work of Sevier and Shelby. ' If they can so handle the 
British and Tories,' we said to one another, ^ can we not 
whip the Indians in the backwoods ? ' " 

At Harrod's they could obtain no ammunition, so 
they pushed on without delay to Boonesborough. Boone 
was an old friend of Robertson, and he cheerfully divided 
with him his stock of powder and lead ; but his supply 
was scanty, and not enough to last the Cumberland set- 
tlers through the winter. Bledsoe, therefore, set out at 
once for Watauga, where he hoped to obtain full supplies 
from Sevier ; and if not there of him, then of Colonel 
Preston, on the head-waters of the Holston, in Virginia. 
At Boone's Robertson met George Rogers Clark, and 
the result of their interview was of quite as much 


importance to the settlers as the fresh supply of am- 

Robertson had for some time known that the Indians 
by whom the Cumberland settlements were beleaguered, 
were not his old enemies the Creeks and Cherokees, but 
the Choctaws and Chickasaws. They had been provoked 
to hostilities in consequence of the erection by Clark of 
Fort Jefferson on their territory, about twenty miles be- 
low the mouth of the Ohio ; and now Clark consented to 
abandon this fort, if thereby he could aid Eobertson in 
making peace with the Chickasaws. This much accom- 
plished, Eobertson set out with his son, his faithful serv- 
ant, and a pack-horse laden with ammunition, on his 
homeward journey. His way, through the open prairies 
of Kentucky and the canebrakes of Tennessee, was 
again attended with constant peril. He crossed fre- 
quently the trails of the Indians, and on several occasions 
came upon their half-extinguished camp-fires ; but he en- 
countered none of the savages. His going and coming 
had thus been in entire safety ; and this he always spoke 
of as most remarkable, and due altogether to the watch- 
ful care of an overruling Providence. 

He was ferried over the river to the Bluff shortly 
after noon on the 15th of January, 1781, and, seeing his 
approach, every occupant of the fort came out to meet 
him. Old and young lined the river's bank, and gave 
him a welcome such as seldom has been accorded to 
any of the most famous heroes in history. Robertson 
was their deliverer, the Moses who was leading them 


througli the wilderness, and now for the first time he 
realized the strong hold he had on the affections of every 
man, woman, and child in the settlement. Apparently 
stolid, he had a most sensitive nature, and this demon- 
stration touched him deeply. It was, he afterward said, 
compensation for all the hardship and danger he had en- 

His wife and children were a mile away at Freeland's 
Station ; and, leaving his pack-animal at the Bluff, he 
soon remounted his horse, and rode off through the 
woods to meet them. Here again the news of his arrival 
had preceded him, and he was joyfully greeted by Major 
Lucas and the families of the ten settlers who had their 
homes in the station. While they plied him with ques- 
tions, he allowed ^' his powder-horn to be passed around, as 
generous lovers of maccaboy are pleased to see their snuff- 
boxes serve the company " ; and he also suffered his shot- 
pouch to be nearly emptied in a like manner. These 
things were of priceless value to the garrison. Before his 
arrival there was not a single bullet or an ounce of pow- 
der at this station. 

Kobertson's wife lay on a rude bed in an inner cham- 
ber, and by her side was a boy four days old — the first 
white child born at Nashville. It is not many years 
since he died, a venerable and venerated patriarch, the 
sole survivor of those dark days upon the Cumberland. 

From Major Lucas and the others Robertson learned 
how it had fared with the settlers in his absence. They 
had been wonderfully guarded. Lucas had kept the 


scout Castleman and a few others out as spies, and 
from time to time they had reported Indians about, but 
on no occasion had the savages come dangerously near 
the stations. The cattle, too, had been unmolested, and 
the supply of cane which had been laid in had kept 
them in reasonably good condition. Food had been 
scanty, but the settlers had eked out their supplies with 
the chestnuts and white and black walnuts that grew in 
abundance about the stations, and on such game as could 
be caught near by with their rude traps and dead-falls. 
Not' an ounce of powder had been expended. Their 
small stock had been carefully hoarded at the Bluff 
against an assault from the Indians. They had been in 
constant apprehension of attack, but the winter had not 
been without the usual enjoyments. The peoj^le had 
gathered together of evenings as was their custom, the 
song and the dance had gone round, and there had been 
a cracking of jokes as well as a cracking of walnuts. 
Their great and constant anxiety had been for Robert- 
son, and, now that he was safe, and they had once more 
a plentiful supply of powder, let the red-skins come on ! 
They would meet a bloody welcome. 

Then the settlers plied Robertson for news from the 
seaboard, and he told them of Sevier, and Shelby, and 
Campbell, and Cleveland ; how they had bagged the 
British at King's Mountain, and sent Cornwallis to the 
right about southward. Nearly all of them had fought 
under Sevier, and now they longed to be again in the 
thick of the fight, sharing the danger and glory of their 


old commander. Lucas had been one of Sevier's cap- 
tains, and a member of the first government at Watauga. 
He had been with Sevier on many a hard-fought field, 
but now, in a few short hours, he was to fall inglori- 
ously from an Indian bullet. 

The evening wore away in pleasant conversation, and 
it was late at night when the settlers separated to their 
several cabins. There were seven or eight of them in 
the station, surrounded by a palisade of pointed logs set 
upright, and furnished with bastions to render more 
effective the fire of the small force of defenders. The 
entrance to the stockade was closed by a stout gate, 
fastened on the inside by a heavy chain. No sentry 
was on duty, for no danger was apprehended. The 
scouts who had come in at nightfall had seen no signs 
of Indians in the vicinity. 

All had gone to their beds except Eobertson, who 
sat by a smoldering fire in the room where his wife 
and young child were sleeping. He was immersed in 
thought, and unconsciously stirring the embers ; but all 
his senses were alert, and rendered keener than usual 
by his recent experiences in the forest. Suddenly, about 
midnight, he heard a slight movement of the chain at 
the gateway. Springing to his feet, and looking through 
a port-hole, he saw in the clear moonlight a hundred 
savages pouring into the inclosure. He seized his rifle, 
took deliberate aim, and their leader fell, mortally 
wounded. Then, as he reloaded, he shouted, " In- 
dians ! " Aroused by the shout and the firing, every 


man in the fort was instantly upon his feet and jore- 
pared for the encounter. As Eobertson fired a second 
time, the others poured in a volley ; and then the In- 
dians raised the terrific war-whoop, and discharged their 
rifles upon the cabins. For a few moments it rained 
bullets. The cabin occupied by Major Lucas and Eob- 
ertson's servant had been but recently constructed, and 
the chinks between the logs were not yet filled, as was 
customary. Seeing this, the savages opened upon it a 
hot fire, and Lucas rashly rushed out to secure better 
shelter. He was shot down as he opened the door, and 
the faithful negro, too, who had accompanied Eobertson 
on his perilous journey, was riddled with bullets. In 
a loud voice Eobertson animated the men and directed 
the firing, charging them to take deliberate aim, and to 
keep from before the port-holes when loading. The din 
awoke the garrison at the Bluff, and soon the solitary 
swivel at the fort announced to the besieged that succor 
was coming. Hearing this, and finding it impossible to 
force the strong log-houses, the Indians withdrew to the 
outside of the stockade, and there wasted their powder 
upon the empty cabin from which Lucas had so rashly 
issued. In the morning not less than five hundred bul- 
lets were dug from its walls and embrasures. The be- 
sieged fired only six rounds to a man, for want of am- 
munition ; but though, after their custom, the Indians 
bore away their dead, the numerous trails of blood 
showed that the opportune supply of powder and lead 
had done terrible execution. It is easy to conceive what 


would have been the fate of the settlers at this station 
had not Eobertson arrived just when he did with his 
pouch well filled with shot and powder. In the history 
of these peoj^le are numerous occasions when they were 
saved from destruction by some such fortunate and un- 
looked-for circumstance. 

This was Eobertson's last fight with the Chickasaws. 
By some means, not recorded, he obtained a personal in- 
terview with Piomingo, their head chieftain, and suc- 
ceeded not only in making peace with him, but in de- 
taching both the Chickasaws and Choctaws from their 
alliance with Great Britain. This chief was a noble 
character, and a friendship then sprang up between him 
and Robertson that lasted through their lives, and was of 
essential service to the settlers in their subsequent war- 
fare with the Creeks and Cherokees. 

At peace with the Indians, the settlers now looked 
forward to planting their crops in security. They no 
longer feared to venture into the forest, and, with their 
guns again loaded, they soon had an abundance of game 
upon their tables ; and, when Spring came, they prepared 
to plant their corn, in full assurance of a peaceful har- 



The leader of this advance-guard of Western civiliza- 
tion was a man who, so far as I know, has had no exact 
counterpart in American history. He was Miles Stand- 
ish, without his Puritanism — John Brown, without his 
fanaticism. He ^^ walked by faith and not by sight"; 
and yet he was possessed of the strongest worldly wisdom 
— viewing facts without any glamour of the imagina- 
tion ; but, nevertheless, undertaking and achieving pro- 
jects which to cool reason would seem absolutely chi- 

At the date at which this history opens he was thirty- 
eight years of age, having been born in Brunswick 
County, Virginia, in 1742. He was of Scotch-Irish par- 
entage, and had inherited the sturdy qualities, together 
with the rigid Presbyterianism, of his ancestors. His 
father was of the yeoman class — cultivating with his own 
hands a small homestead — and Robertson himself had 
been brought up to the severest manual labor, with little 
time or opportunity to acquire more than a very meager 
book education. His biographer, Putnam, states that 


lie was taught to read by his wife ; but this is denied by 
his descendants. However, it is certain that he knew 
little of any books except the Bible, and the few religious 
works which in that day were in wide circulation in the 
colonies. But, if he had imbibed few of other men's 
thoughts, he had been closely attentive to his own. He 
was possessed of the keenest observation, the coolest, 
most dispassionate judgment, and a certain rectitude of 
mind which enabled him to see things in their right rela- 
tions ; and whatever he had of mental equipment was 
genuine, and altogether unborrowed. What he did 
know, he knew beyond all cavil or peradventure ; and 
the man who does so is always a strong character. 
From his youth up he had been in the habit of steady 
and patient reflection ; and hence he had acquired a 
larger stock of ideas than many men of much wider 
knowledge. His mind was broad and comprehensive, 
and yet it revolved in a narrow sphere — acting, however, 
in that sphere with peculiar power and intensity. To 
the casual observer his prominent trait would appear to 
be strong, practical common sense ; but there can be no 
question that it was in reality faith — unquestioning reli- 
ance on an overruling Power, who had, he thought, 
selected him to be the forerunner of Western civilization. 
To this conviction he had come when, ten years before, 
his life had been saved in a most singular manner, as I 
have elsewhere related ; * and he expressed it to Sevier 

* " The Rear-Guard of the Revolution," pp. 47, 48. 

A RAm OF FIRE. 31 

when he attempted to dissuade him from this last peril- 
ous plunge into a far-off wilderness. ^' We are," he said 
to him, " the advance-guard of civilization, and our way 
is across the continent." Remarkable words to have 
been spoken a hundred years ago, by a man hemmed in 
by uncounted enemies, and when the Mississippi River, 
and all the vast region beyond, were in the hands of a 
hostile power. This phrase, and another — ^'Man pro- 
poses, but God disposes " — which was ever onhis J^is, 
afford, I think, a key to the character of Kot>iftgen. 
Nothing but such a faith could have enabled him 
to so cheerfully meet the hardships, privations, and 
perils which he encountered in planting civilization at 
that remote outpost on the Cumberland. He counted 
consequences, and when possible avoided danger ; but, 
when peril had to be met, he stood absolutely undis- 
mayed, alike by the cold that destroyed the settler's 
game, the floods which swept away his crops, and the 
savage horde who encircled his home and smote him 
down whenever he ventured beyond the gateway of his 
log station. 

But, though in Robertson's character there was not a 
trace of cant or fanaticism, there was blended with his 
faith a trifle of superstition ; and I think it is so with 
most men who like him live very near to Nature. They 
may believe in the reign of law — that it governs alike in 
the natural and the spiritual world — but they not only 
see God in Nature, they sensibly /ee/ the underlying and 
overruling Mind that moves the pulses of creation. 


Hence, they often attribute to things whicli have the 
simplest natural origin a special significance, as if they 
were a direct utterance of the Deity. It was so with the 
ancients who saw in " the bow in the clouds " an express 
token of the Infinite Mercy, while we know that the nat- 
ural refraction of light hung it there ages before man 
was here to hope, and to fear, and to act his little part in 
the great drama of the universe. Eobertson recognized 
a benevolent Overruler, who ^^providently caters for the 
sparrow " ; but he believed that Providence brings about 
its special ends in the intelligent universe by natural 
means — by acting on our minds, and enlightening them 
to a right use of men, events, and natural elements. 
And yet he was not enough of *^a scientist" to draw a 
precise line between the natural and the supernatural — 
between those phenomena whose laws we know, and 
those whose laws we do not know. To him all things 
that exist are natural, and Nature as directly moved by 
the indwelling Divine will as is the human body by the 
indwelling human will. So it was that, when he awoke 
one morning during the spring following the attack on 
Freeland's Station, and beheld the earth draped in a 
sleeted glory almost too dazzling to look upon, he lelt 
that God was visibly present, and that he had clad all 
Nature in insufferable splendor expressly to assure him 
and his compatriots that his power was everywhere — 
even over his sore-distressed children pent up there in 
those distant solitudes. 

It was a spectacle such as civilized man has seldom 

A RAm OF FIRE. 33 

seen, and never except in a wide forest. Tlie whole 
earth was bedecked with diamonds. The mighty oaks 
east of the river, the dense cedars at the west, the encir- 
cling hills at the south — all were one mass of glitter- 
ing radiance. The tallest trees were bowed by its 
weight, the slenderest twigs sparkled in its glory. The 
vines which festooned the tangled forest, swayed by the 
wind, dropped a spray of brilliants. Every sprig, every 
leaf, every branch, shone with dazzling flames, and the 
central hill was crowned with a diadem of jewels, such 
as never king counted among his treasures. The world 
of stars seemed fallen upon the earth, and trembling, 
blazing, flashing there in coruscant light. It was a 
living flame, a luminous flood, a heaving ocean of luster 
and loveliness, in which the everlasting beauty was mir- 
rored in such a glory as '^ never yet was on land or 
sea." Well might Eobertson say to his beleaguered 
companions, ^^ Come, and see the works of God — 
his wonders on the earth ! Will he who clothes dead 
Nature in such a glory, forget us, his living chil- 
dren ? " 

But all this glory vanished with the setting sun. A 
south wind blew, a storm-cloud gathered, a beating-rain 
came down, and the sj^lendor of the morning was lost 
in the gloom of a night that was dark, and drear, and 
desolate. So was it in the lives of the settlers. The 
transient gleam of hope which they saw in this grand 
natural phenomenon was soon obscured in a storm of 
war, in which nearly one half of them were smitten 


with death, and the life of Robertson himself was saved 
only as it were by miracle. 

The storm broke in the following April. The set- 
tlers had begun to plough their land, and were looking 
forward to a peaceful harvest, when the scouts came in 
with reports of "Indians." Only small parties had 
been seen, and they seemed to be engaged in hunting ; 
but it was soon discovered that they were Cherokees, 
and this led Eobertson to enjoin upon his comrades 
more than ordinary caution. He himself was stationed 
at the Bluff, where the fort at this time was manned by 
only thirty-five men, the rest being divided between 
the two other fortified stations. All these forts were 
modeled after the one built by Sevier at Watauga. 
This one consisted of a log-house of two stories, with 
bastions and port-holes ; adjoining which were a dozen 
other log-cabins, the whole inclosed with stout palisades. 
Over the wide gateway was a lookout station, whence a 
view could be had of the country for many miles around. 
The buildings were on elevated ground, and below them 
were bottom-lands covered with cane, and at the north- 
west was a dense growth of privet-bushes. 

A sentry was posted on the lookout station nightly, 
but often others came out during his watch to see that 
he was properly vigilant. Thus it was that about one 
o'clock, on the morning of the 2d of April, Jonas Meni- 
fee clambered to the roof of a block-house, and de- 
tected an Indian spying around the buildings. He 
leveled his rifle and fired at the savage, who disap- 


peared among the privet-buslies ; but between dawn and 
daylight three others came within range of the fort 
and fired at the man on the lookout station. Then 
they leisurely reloaded their guns, as if to defy the gar- 
rison. Every soul in the fort was by this time aroused, 
and, though they felt sure the Indians were merely the 
advance of a larger body, they determined to pursue 
them, as had been customary on like occasions. 

A party of twenty-one, including Robertson, mounted 
their horses and charged down the hill upon the In- 
dians. When they had arrived near the privet-bushes, 
about three hundred savages arose from ambush in their 
front and poured a volley upon them. The whites dis- 
mounted to give battle, when they heard a war-whoop 
in their rear, and saw a still larger body of Indians rise 
from ambush and glide between them and the fort. 
Thus were the twenty-one surrounded by not less than 
seven hundred ! Fortunately, the horses of the whites, 
terrified at the firing, had broken away and galloped 
off toward the hill on which now stands the Capitol ; 
and some of the Indians, in their eagerness to capture 
the animals, had set off in pursuit, thus leaving a gap 
in the line which inclosed the settlers. Through this 
opening the whites fled, bearing off their wounded. 
The Indians soon saw their mistake, and began to close 
down again upon the little party of settlers. The de- 
struction of the whole seemed inevitable, when a fortu- 
nate occurrence saved them. 

The remainder of the slender garrison stood at the 


port-holes ; but the women of the fort, gun or axe in 
hand, had gathered about the gateway, where also were 
crowded the dogs of the settlers — fifty large, ferocious 
animals, trained to hunt wild beasts and Indians, and 
now aroused to fury by the shouts and sounds of the out- 
side conflict. The wife of Eobertson had mounted to the 
lookout station, and stood there, rifle in hand, intently 
watching the rapid events on which hung the life of her 
husband. She saw the stampede of the horses ; the 
break in the Indian line ; the wild flight of the wiiites ; 
and then the swift closing down upon them of their sav- 
age assailants. Never did woman experience a more in- 
tense straining of her heart-strings ; but even in this ter- 
rible moment this brave woman did not lose her self- 
possession. *^Open the gates !" she cried to the sentry 
below — " open the gates, and set the dogs upon them ! " 
Instantly the order was obeyed, and the ferocious ani- 
mals flew at the nearest body of Indians with — says the 
old chronicle — "a, persistence and fury never before wit- 
nessed." In self-defense the Indians were obliged to 
halt and draw their tomahawks upon the infuriated ani- 
mals. This allowed the whites to escape to the fort — 
thirteen of them ; the other eight were stretched upon 
the ground, never as living men to enter it again. The 
wife of Robertson stood at the gateway as, one after an- 
other, the fugitives arrived at the entrance. As her hus- 
band came in, begrimed with smoke and powder, she is re- 
ported to have said to him, '' Thanks be to God, who gave 
to the Indians a dread of dogs, and a love for horses ! " 


Among the eight who fell were those brave spirits, 
Leiper and Buchanan. Isaac Lucas, a brother of the 
slaughtered major, was shot down within rifle-range of 
the fort. A stalwart savage was in close pursuit, and as 
Lucas fell the Indian drew his tomahawk to dispatch 
him ; but the fallen man, who had reloaded his rifle as 
he ran, now leveled the weapon, and the savage fell dead 
in his tracks. ■ His comrades in the fort then covered 
Lucas with their fire, and, after a while, got him away in 
safety. Even a narrower escape was that of Edward 
Swanson. Overtaken by a huge savage when within 
twenty paces of the gateway, and felled to his knees, he 
grasped the rifle which the Indian had uplifted to brain 
him. A desperate struggle ensued for the possession of 
the weapon, during which the garrison could not fire, 
for fear of killing their comrade. The Indian was the 
stronger of the two, and he was disengaging his toma- 
hawk to give Swanson his death-blow, when the aged 
John Buchanan, whose own son lay dead on the field not 
far away, rushed from the fort and gave the savage a 
mortal shot from his rifle. The arm of the Indian fell ; 
and then, gritting his teeth with rage, he staggered to a 
stump near by, and sank dead to the ground. The old 
man then helped his badly wounded comrade into the 
fort. Very few of the horses were captured by the In- 
dians ; the most of them, after a hard chase over and 
around Capitol Hill, came to the gateway of the fort and 
were joyfully admitted. 

About ten o'clock in the morning the Indians with- 


drew from the neighborhood, but at nightfall they re- 
turned and opened fire upon the walls of the fort. They 
seemed more numerous than before, and it was conject- 
ured that they had been re-enforced by a party not in the 
conflict of the morning. About midnight a body of 
several hundred were seen to gather near to the walls of 
the fort, and then the solitary swivel of the settlers 
was put in position, loaded with slugs and broken crock- 
ery, and discharged upon the gathering mass, who at 
once scattered and fled into the forest. This explosion 
of worthless material doubtless saved the fort from being 
stormed by a thousand Indians. With the report of the 
rifle the savages were familiar, but there was terror to 
them in the roar of even a four-pounder. 

Then, again, the whole settlement became a battle- 
ground, where white man met red, and both went down 
to a swift destruction. Of those one hundred and thirty- 
four, who so bravely stood at their posts, at the end of 
the year only seventy were living. The rest had offered 
up their lives for Western civilization. Every man was 
a hero, every boy was a man, and every delicate woman 
was a soldier, ready to mold bullets, to load rifles, to 
stand all day gun in hand at the port-holes, and to 
watch all night to extinguish the torch which the prowl- 
ing savage might apply to the stations. 

Eobertson was not long in discovering that the at- 
tacking party had been composed not only of Oherokees, 
but of detachments from the Shawnees, Delawares, Wy- 
andots, and even the Pottawattamies, and other tribes 


around the Great Lakes of the Northwest. Hence he 
inferred that a vast coalition had heen formed for the de- 
struction of the white settlers. In this he was not mis- 
taken. The British Governor of Detroit, Hamilton — 
styled the ^^scalp-trader" by George Rogers Clark — who 
had been the prime mover of the previous coalition, was 
now safely under lock and key in Virginia, but the 
dragon's teeth he had sown had, after more than a year, 
sprung up a well-armed force of twenty thousand. 
Deputies from all the tribes except the Choctaws and 
Chickasaws had recently met at Old Chillicothe, and 
there, inflamed by the evil eloquence of Simon Girty, the 
renegade white devil, they had resolved on the extermi- 
nation of all the settlers west of the Alleghanies. The 
head chief of the Shawnees was to direct the operations 
in the field, but the feeble and decrepit Oconostota was 
the heart and brain of the movement. The diabolical 
spirit which was in this old man could only be appeased 
by the rapine and slaughter of the whites ; but he was 
now smarting under the recent chastisement of his 
nation by Sevier, who, at that very moment, was carry- 
ing fire and sword to the Cherokee towns among the 
Smoky Mountains. His braves were too much cowed to 
be at once led against the invincible Nolichucky Jack, 
but they had no such fear of the peace-loving Robert- 
son and his feeble settlements along the Cumberland. 
Hence, while Girty descended upon the whites in Ken- 
tucky, Oconostota determined that his warriors and their 
allies should envelop and destroy Robertson, the man of 


whose fire-water he had drunk, whose venison he had 
eaten, and for whom he had professed an undying 

Oconostota had given the whites timely warning of 
his lasting enmity. At the treaty of Watauga in 1776 
he had opposed the cession of the country to the whites ; 
and, when his arguments had been overborne by those 
who represented that the settlers would be a barrier be- 
tween the Cherokees and their Northern enemies, he 
had taken David Boone by the hand and said to him : 
^^ Young man, we have sold you a fine territory, but I 
fear you will have some difiiculty in getting it settled." 
In this remark of the wily old savage there was a threat 
as well as a prophecy. "Much trouble," indeed, was 
to make this fine land a ''dark and bloody ground." 
Instead of being a barrier between contending savages, 
it was to be their central point of attack, the target at 
which through long years they should aim their most 
murderous fire. 

The fact of the coalition Eobertson subsequently 
learned from the Chickasaws, but the evidence he now 
had of it was too clear to be questioned ; so, he prepared 
at once, as best he might, for the direful emergency. 
But what could he do ? What more than to look well to 
the strengthening of the forts, and to lay in a plentiful 
supply of ammunition ? Reduced to extremities, the set- 
tlers could trap game in their dead-falls, gather walnuts 
from the near-by forest, or catch fish from the river 
which the fort overlooked ; but without powder and lead 


they would be absolutely at the mercy of the savages. 
Bledsoe had brought in a pack-load during the win- 
ter, but not enough to last through the year ; so now 
tlie scout Castleman, and one other, set out to break 
through the Indian lines and procure the needed supply 
from the distant settlements. But even with ammuni- 
tion, and posted behind stout defenses, how could this 
handful of men withstand such a horde of enemies ? 
Does history give account of any similar body so much 
as attempting to stand its ground against such over- 
whelming numbers ? 

The Indians made no further attack on any of the 
forts ; they simply enveloped them, and lay in wait to 
take the whites at a disadvantage. There was no longer 
any security outside the walls of the log- fortresses ; and 
even there the momentary exposure of a head at an em- 
brasure was very sure to draw upon it an Indian bullet. 
Corn had to be raised against the coming winter ; but, 
while one planted, two or three stood guard with their 
rifles at half-trigger. If one went to a spring, another 
was placed on watch ; and if half a dozen were, for any 
purpose, gathered in field or forest, each one stood, gun 
in hand, facing outward, his senses all alert for the 
prowling savage. The ground around the stations be- 
came a wide battle-field, or rather, a vast aceldama, 
where white man and red went down together, leaving 
their flesh as food for the wolves, and their bones to 
bleach in the sun and rain, because no man durst give 
them burial. 


Familiarity with danger is said to rob it of its terrors ; 
but I suppose that a life-long exposure to it would not 
make a brave man of a coward. Those qualities which 
coolly meet peril, patiently endure suffering, and reso- 
lutely encounter hardship, are born in a man, and are 
not acquired by any amount of training or experience. 
With these people, however, they were not only inborn, 
but also developed by daily danger to a degree that is 
absolutely wonderful. Their moral courage is shown in 
the stand they made — one hundred and thirty-four 
against twenty thousand ; but their natural bravery, 
their fortitude, their mere physical endurance, were 
just as remarkable. These characteristics may be illus- 
trated by a few instances as well as by a detailed his- 

Two young lads — aged twelve and fourteen — named 
Mason, went out one morning on a " still-hunt " for 
deer, to a spring not far from one of the forts. With 
their rifles loaded, they had concealed themselves in the 
underbrush, and were silently waiting for the game, 
when a party of seven Cherokees came to the lick, 
armed and painted, as if on the war-path. But, painted 
or unpainted, it mattered not to the boys ; for they had 
but recently lost an older brother, shot down within 
sight of the station by these same Cherokees. The 
smoke from their rifles would show where they were con- 
cealed, but, without a thought of the danger, the boys 
fired, and killed two of the Indians. The rest fled, and 
then the lads, taught ferocity by their ferocious enemies. 


coolly scalped the lifeless bodies and bore the trophies 
off to the fort. 

David Hood was a light-hearted young fellow, quick 
at repartee and fond of adventure. He was of slender 
build and without physical strength, but his courage 
was unquestioned, though no one suspected him of a for- 
titude absolutely stoical, and a tenacity of life that has 
seldom been equaled. His brother had been killed by 
the Indians just outside the fort, during the previous 
summer ; and he had been often cautioned to be more 
careful in venturing between the stations, but he per- 
sisted in going out upon short hunts, and frequent visits 
to the young people in the neighboring stations. One 
day in midwinter he went, with two other young men, 
upon a short excursion ; and on their return, about 
nightfall, they were waylaid and shot at by a considerable 
body of Indians. They all ran for dear life, but they 
could not outrun the bullets of the savages. All three were 
wounded, and Hood so badly that he fell in his tracks, 
within sight of the fort. The Indians were close upon 
him, and, deeming it his only chance for life, he turned 
over upon his face in the cane and feigned to be dead. 
" The Indians gathered around him," says Captain Rains, 
in the old chronicle, *^and one of them very deliberately 
twisted his fingers into his hair to scalp him. His knife 
being very dull he let go, took a better hold, and sawed 
away until he could pull it off, poor Hood bearing it 
meanwhile without a groan or a show of life." Then 
the Indians reloaded their rifles and went away, one of 


them giving the dead man a few thrusts with his knife 
to make sure that life had left him. When they had 
been some time gone, Hood raised his head, looked about 
him, and, the coast seeming to be clear, he pulled him- 
self to his feet and set out to hobble toward the fort. 
But what was his consternation, when, slowly mounting 
the ridge, to find himself in the midst of the same band 
of Indians ! They set up a fiendish laugh — jeering at 
him as a dead man, blind and bloody, attempting to 
walk — and then fired upon him again. He set out to 
run, but a bullet in the breast brought him to the 
ground, and again the sayages were upon him. On this 
occasion they gave him wounds that would have killed 
any one with less than nine lives, and then tossed his 
body upon a brush -heap in the snow. There he lay 
tlirough the long hours of a winter's night, within sight 
of the fort, the garrison supposing him to be dead, and 
none daring to bring in his body on account of the In- 
dians. In the morning the body was found by the blood- 
marks in the snow, and taking it sorrowfully up his com- 
rades bore it to the fort, and to one of the outer cabins, 
to be got ready for interment. The women then gathered 
about it to do the last offices to the dead, and one of them 
thought she saw some signs of life in the body. As the 
warmth of the room diffused itself through his benumbed 
and half-frozen limbs. Hood's many wounds had started 
to bleed afresh, and a cloudy consciousness had come 
back to him. '^Aren't you dead?" asked the woman. 
**No," he answered, in a feeble voice ; "I can live, if 


you give me only half a chance." He recovered, to often 
tell how he had hoodwinked the Indians. 

By a little girl in the fort, who had an experience 
somewhat similar to his own, he was styled Mr. Opos- 
sum, and he was accustomed to retort by calling her Miss 
Opossum. She had been sent to the spring one day 
to bring to her mother a bucket of water. Some In- 
dians concealed behind a pile of brush near by seized 
her, and one drew his knife to cut o2 her scalp. The 
screams of the child brought her mother from the fort, 
followed by a number of the garrison. The Indians 
fled, but not till they had scalped the child, and given 
the mother some terrible wounds, from which sjie was 
long in recovering. Of old and young who had been 
scalped, and left for dead, but who had finally recovered, 
there was soon a number among the settlers. Hood was 
accustomed to allude to them as his '' select company " — 
his troop of "discrowned royalties." 

Captain Eains and the scout Castleman were in the 
fort when the little girl was scalped, and they resolved 
upon an immediate pursuit of the Indians. Through 
the canebrakes, or over the matted leaves that every- 
where covered the forest, the trail of a man was as easily 
followed as footprints are in the snow, and it was not 
long before the two intrepid men returned to the fort 
with the scalps of the little girl and of two of the ma- 

These scouts and their companions, whose names 
have not come down to us, were essential to the very ex- 


istence of the beleaguered community. It is impossible 
to conjecture how Robertson, with all his caution, fore- 
sight, and indomitable resolution, could have kept the 
settlement alive but for their watchful care and sleepless 
vigilance. At all hours of the day and night they were 
out, exposed to the extremest dangers. Their duties 
were to traverse the forest on all sides of the stations, to 
follow the trails of the savages, waylay the crossings of 
creeks and rivers, conceal themselves in the neighbor- 
hood of springs to which the Indians resorted for water, 
and to fire upon them whenever it would not be a waste 
of powder. There were six of them in constant service, 
to whom — as they could do nothing for their own sub- 
sistence — was given an allowance of seventy-five bushels 
of corn per month. They had to be not only of the 
highest courage, but of that keenness of vision, quick- 
ness of hearing, and skill in wood-craft, which is deemed 
peculiar to the Indian. But the wood-craft of these men 
equaled that of the savage, and Castleman excelled him 
on his own ground, and beat him with his own weapons. 
He could tread on a dry leaf and make no sound; 
track the footsteps of an enemy in the darkest night, 
and find his way through the forest with neither moon 
nor stars to guide him. The voice of every beast and 
bird he could imitate — the bleat of the deer, the howl of 
the wolf, the call of the wild turkey — and all so perfectly 
as to deceive the very savages. By these sounds, mis- 
taken for those of game, he lured his enemy within reach 
of his rifle ; and then it was a sharp report, a shrill cry, 


and another Indian had entered the happy hunting- 
grounds. Two of his brothers had been killed by the 
Cherokees, and he felt that he had a special "call" to 
exterminate that nation. His rifle he loved as if it had 
been his sweetheart ; and he gave it a pet name, as did 
most of the settlers to their weapons. Eains christened 
his "Sister," but Castleman gave his the homelier name 
of "Betsy" ; and wonderful were Betsy's exploits, as he 
related them, for he had the true Southwestern talent at 
exaggeration. " Once," he is reported to have said, 
"she girdled a white oak, nicked the epidermis of an 
Indian's back, knocked over a catamount, brought down 
a flock of turkeys from the tree-tops, laid out a buffalo, 
blazed a section of land, split enough boards to cover a 
shanty ; and, if I fired her more than once, you may say 
I wasted time and ammunition." 

But Castleman's own exploits are more credible than 
those of his rifle, and I quote one of them, as it illus- 
trates the wood-craft that was practiced by both the 
settlers and the Indians. One of the savages had tried 
to draw him within reach of his gun by whooping like 
an owl. " It was," said Castleman, " in the dusk of the 
evening. The imitation of this large bird of night was 
very perfect ; yet I was suspicious. The woo-hoo call 
and the woo-hoo answer were not well timed and toned, 
and the babel chatter was a failure ; and, more than this, 
I was sure they were on the ground. ^ That won't be- 
gin to do ; I'll see you,' says I to myself. As I ap- 
proached, I saw something, of the height of a stump. 


standing between a forked tree which divided near the 
ground. I knew there could be no stump there, so I put 
Betsy to my face — that stump was once a live Indian, 
and he lay at the roots of those forked chestnuts. If 
he was ever buried, it was not far off." 

Old Mr. Mansker, of Mansker's Station, was also a 
noted scout, and of him the following is related. He 
had peculiarly keen eyes, set so widely apart in his head 
that he was accustomed to say that he could see on both 
sides ^nd entirely around himself. An Indian had at- 
tempted to decoy him by the simulated call of the 
wild turkey, and the old gentleman thought that '^, two 
could play at that game " ; though his was the most 
dangerous part, he being a moving object, while his 
adversary was stationary. He approached cautiously 
till he could designate the tree behind which his enemy 
was concealed. The task then was to make the Indian 
uncover ; so, keeping one eye upon that tree, and the 
muzzle of his rifle pointed toward it, he crept cautiously 
along at a distance too gi'eat for an Indian's fire, but 
just right for his '^ Nancy." When he was sure the 
Indian had seen him, he moved away to the right, hop- 
ing to draw him on to follow, and so to get him from 
his concealment. But all the while he kept his left eye 
fixed upon the tree behind which the savage was hidden. 
Suddenly the Indian bounded to another cover, and as 
suddenly Nancy spoke to him in so loud a tone that he 
fell to the ground lifeless. 

The scouts were messengers of death to the savages, 


but they were not invulnerable to Indian bullets. Often 
one was shot down, and during this second winter four 
fell within forty-eight hours of one another. And death 
to them, if not instantaneous, was always attended with 
the extremest tortures. Mercy is not a prominent trait 
of the Indian character ; but the Cherokee had abso- 
lutely no mercy upon the men who retorted upon him 
his own mode of warfare. And yet, when one scout 
fell, another was ready to take his place, not led thereto 
by the scanty j)ay — for what relish could there be in 
parched corn, eaten in deadly peril ? They were 
prompted by mixed motives — love of their friends, 
hatred of the savages, and, more than all else, by a 
genuine fondness for excitement and danger. 

But, though many of the scouts fell, I question if 
the mortality was any greater among them than among 
the other settlers. During the two years that followed 
the attack on the fort at the Bluff, nearly one half of 
the whole number perished by violence — that is, one was 
killed, on an average, during every six days of that 
whole period. It is hard for us to realize such a state 
of things : when no man knew but the day might be 
his last ; when the husband, parting for but a few 
hours from the wife, took leave of her as if forever; 
when women and children said their prayers on going 
out to milk the cows, or to the spring for a bucket of 
water. It was one long reign of terror. In the morn- 
ing it was asked, '^ How many of us are living ? " and 
in the evening, ** Which of us has been slaughtered 


to-day ? " The September massacres in the prisons of 
Paris, which sent a thrill of horror throughout Europe 
and America, lasted but four days, and, by the best ac- 
counts, immolated only a thousand and eighty-nine vic- 
tims in a population of about a million — that is, about 
one in every thousand. But these Indian massacres 
lasted two long years, and at their close every other male 
settler had fallen by the tomahawk or the Indian rifle. 
The victims of Paris, too, perished amid a sympathizing 
world, where millions would bewail their fate and pro- 
claim their virtues. These men were cut off from the 
world, shut out alike from human^ succor and human 
sympathy, and they went down amid the solitude and 
silence of the wilderness, where few would mourn their 
fall, and perhaps not even a stone would tell their 
names to coming generations. But neither isolation nor 
death could shake the resolution of Robertson. *^The 
God of creation and providence," he said, ^^ never de- 
signed these rich and beautiful lands to be given up to 
wild beasts and savages. They are to be the home of 
Christianity and civilization." '^If we perish here," 
said his friend Isaac Bledsoe, " others will come to avenge 
our death, and accomplish the work we have begun. 
They will find our graves, or our scattered bones, and 
tell to the ages that we deserved a better fate." 

This was the spirit that animated them, and so they 
met unmoved the extremest perils, and in defiance of 
starvation, and havoc, and death, held that extreme out- 
post ou the Cumberland. 


How, amid such a rain of fire, could these people 
provide foiv their daily needs, and pursue the ordinary 
employments of life ? Tiiey did do these things. They 
caught fish from the river, and game from the forest. 
They jDlanted and sowed, and gathered in their grain. 
During the entire two years they did not want, though 
there were times when the corn was measured out, and 
each one had only a scanty allowance. Many of their 
cattle were slaughtered by the Indians, but those that 
were left did not lack for fodder ; the cane that grew 
about the forts supplied them, both in summer and 
winter, with abundant provender. The settlers also 
found time to repair their cabins, and to erect others, 
and even to build grist-mills. 

Neither did the colonists lack for clothing, though 
the women did not wear silks nor the men broadcloth. 
No supplies came among them after their first arrival ; 
and, as a matter of course, the clothes they brought be- 
came in time so worn that even the principal men went 
about arrayed in shreds and patches. But when patch 
had been added to patch till there was nothing left of 
the original garment, and the motley thing had itself 
fallen in pieces, the settlers had to look about for other 
wearing material. They had not far to seek. The skin 
of the deer, the bear, and the buffalo had served to 
clothe those creatures, and why should it not do a like 
service to the human animal ? They became so expert in 
dressing these skins — using the brains of the beast as an 
emollient — as to give them a most pliable texture and 


velvety softness. They fashioned them into all kinds of 
raiment — waistcoats, trousers, hnnting-shirts, and even 
into garments worn next to the person ; and this was 
the work of the men as well as of the women, as they 
gathered together around the great wood-fires of the forts 
in the long winter evenings. 

Nearly all the beasts of the forest were made to con- 
tribute to their apparel, and when arrayed in this primi- 
tive fashion the settler presented a very picturesque ap- 
pearance. His cap was of foz or wolf skin, the tail 
dangling behind ; his trousers and hunting-shirt were of 
deer-skin, fringed with the fur of the bear or panther, 
and the latter garment belted about with a strip of buf- 
falo-hide, tanned and dyed some bright color. His feet 
were shod with buffalo-skin, dressed to such softness that 
his tread was as noiseless as that of ^^the wild-cat of the 
mountain." When he went abroad in winter he threw a 
robe of this material over his left shoulder — the right be- 
ing left free to handle his rifle — and, wrapped in this, he 
slept warmly, even if his bed was a snow-bank. Buffalo- 
robes were the universal substitute for woolen blankets. 
A hunting-party seldom went out unless provided with a 
pack-horse laden with these articles, under which they 
could sleep perfectly protected from the rain and snow. 
The dress of the women was of the same material as that 
of the men, though more ornamented, and cut with greater 
regard to the ^'latest fashion." It was most commonly 
of deer-skin, dressed to resemble Canton crape, and col- 
ored with various vegetable dyes which gave it a brilliant 


and really attractive appearance. Many a backwoods 
beauty thus adorned is reported to have " smashed the 
hearts of a dozen adorers " ; and her rosy health, supple 
limbs, rounded figure, and natural grace and loveliness, 
might have captivated men more familiar with "culti- 
vated " beauty. 

Thus the year wore away, and the third winter came 
on with rain, and sleet, and snow, and a scanty store of 
corn in the granary. Then the survivors came together 
again to count up the graves of their fallen, and to num- 
ber their unburied dead, whose bones were moldering 
away in unknown nooks of the forest. It was a ghastly 
reckoning — one to appall the stoutest-hearted ; and 
again they proposed to Eobertson to seek safety by aban- 
doning the country. " We are here," they said to him, 
*^ standing back to back, all facing outward, like a covey 
of partridges on watch for a creeping enemy. More 
than two years have now passed, and a fierce and mur- 
derous war is still waged against us. We are fewer in 
number, and occupy less ground than we did a year 
ago, and we are decreasing rapidly. We have dimin- 
ished means for defense or expansion ; we are hemmed 
in and hunted, buffeted and badgered, worse than at 
first ; and we see no prospect for any improvement." 

Eobertson's reply has been preserved, but there is 
space here for but a few extracts. He did not attempt 
to conceal the gravity of the situation, but he opposed 
the proposition to abandon the settlement. ** Where 
will you go ? " he asked. "It is impossible to get to 


Kentucky ; the Indians are in force on all the passes 
thither. For the same reason you can not remove to the 
settlements upon the Holston. No chance remains but 
to go down the river in boats, and make our way to the 
Illinois, where we might find a few friends, or to the 
French and Spaniards on the lower Mississippi. But to 
this plan there are insuperable obstacles. With what 
boats we have a few might get away, risking the dangers 
of the navigation, and of being shot by the savages on 
the bluffs, and all along the shores. But how can we 
obtain timber to build the other boats that will be 
needed ? The Indians are every day in the skirts of the 
woods ; we look for them under every shrub, and privet, 
and cedar, and we find them behind every tree. They are 
ready to inflict death upon whomsoever shall attempt to 
fell a tree, to hew out a canoe, or saw it into lumber." 
Then he spoke feelingly of the sufferings they had en- 
dured, and the dangers that then surrounded them. He 
did not conceal his belief that the savages had resolved 
to drive them away, or to destroy them ; and he added : 
'^ There is danger if we stay, and danger if we attempt 
to go ; either way we may be destroyed. Every one 
must decide for himself. Do as you please. My mind 
is made up. I have never thought of leaving ; I am de- 
termined not to leave. Others here think and feel as I 
do. We know each other. I hope that others of you, 
who have talked of going, may yet conclude to stay." 
Then he predicted the speedy and successful termination 
of the war for independence, and pictured the better day 


that would then dawn upon the settlement, when they 
might rely upon large accessions to their population. 
Officers and soldiers would come there to select their 
bounty-lands, and then settle among them. He closed 
with sententious brevity : '*We have to fight it out here, 
or to fight our way out from here." 

'' We will fight it out here ! " echoed Rains as Robert- 
son concluded ; and the words were taken up and re- 
peated by the whole assemblage. After that there were 
dark days, but never again was there a thought of aban- 
doning the settlement. 



I NEED not recount the savage warfare of the two 
years that followed. It would be a mere recital of 
bloody encounters between white man and red, when 
both met destruction. Time and again every settler fled 
to the three stations ; and some never reached those 
places of safety. Some were shot down on the way at 
noonday, and some awoke at dead of night only to meet 
the tomahawk of the savage. A party of eleven set out 
for the Bluff from one of the outlying stations. En- 
camping for the night, they were awakened by the war- 
whoop, and only one escaped — a woman, who, with her 
hair hanging about her, her clothing torn to shreds, her 
limbs scratched and bleeding, came to the gate of the 
fort in the morning. With no guide but the stars, she 
had fled twenty miles through matted undergrowth and 
privet bushes, leaving her husband and children asleep 
forever in the forest. 

But during the third winter the settlers were com- 
paratively free from savage molestation. The weather 


was unusually cold ; and most of the Northern Indians 
retired to their distant wigwams, while the Chickamau- 
gas — the most troublesome branch of the Cherokees — had 
full employment in repairing the devastation which Se- 
vier had recently inflicted upon their country. Their 
provisions having been destroyed, they were forced to 
stay at home to provide subsistence for their wives and 
children. The settlers' supply of corn was scanty, and 
their stock of ammunition again became so reduced that 
every man was enjoined to be economical in his expendi- 
ture of powder and lead. None was wasted in hunting, 
but the whole kept in reserve against a possible attack 
from the Indians. But the settlers did not lack for 
game. Fish was abundant in the river, and bears and 
deer were easily caught in pens and dead-falls, and rab- 
bits and wild turkeys in snares and traps. Thus fed 
from the forest and the river, and warmly clad in skins, 
this band of Crusoes passed the winter securely housed 
in their log- fortresses, and without any diminution to 
their numbers. Some few Indians were seen by the 
spies ; but they did not come near the forts, and no lives 
were lost in any hostile encounters. 

March came, and the sun had begun to melt the snow 
in the forest and the ice in the river, when there rode up 
to the Bluff an unexpected troop of horsemen. They 
were well armed and well mounted, but bore traces of a 
long journey, and two or three of them had unhealed 
wounds, which told of some recent encounter. They 
asked to be allowed to cast in their lot with the settlers. 


'^ Who are you ? " was the first and most natural of 
questions in the circumstances. The strangers frankly- 
answered that they were Tories, who had fled for their 
lives from the lower Carolinas. Every man of them had 
borne arms against the country, but now they desired to 
live at peace with their neighbors. This they could not 
do over the mountains, for there they were hunted down 
as criminals. They had nothing but strong arms and 
sure rifles ; but, being granted protection, they would 
gladly use these in defense of the settlement. 

The larger number of the settlers had fought under 
John Sevier, and had imbibed his intense patriotism, but 
not his toleration and kindliness for even an armed 
enemy. They regarded a Tory as they did a wild beast 
— as nearer of kin to the Evil-One than even a Chicka- 
mauga savage ; and at once, and unanimously, they re- 
jected the overtures of the new-comers. But Eobertson 
opposed this decision. He said that " this is a free coun- 
try, in which no man should suffer for a mere opinion. 
Opinion harms no one but the man himself, unless it 
leads him to unlawful action. These men believe in 
George Rex, we believe in George Washington. To us 
one name stands for tyranny, the other for freedom. 
They think just the contrary ; and this opinion of theirs 
has led them into acts for which they would probably be 
hanged, if caught over the mountains. This they admit, 
but say they now want to lead peaceable lives. In other 
words, they repent, and want space for repentance. We 
have space enough and to spare ; and I am in favor of 


admitting them to a corner of it on probation. Tf they 
show themselves to be worthy men, I shall propose to let 
them stay, provided they make oaths to abjure King 
George, and to support us and the Continental Congress. 
I think there may be honest Tories, and I like the frank- 
ness of these men. I believe they will show themselves 
good citizens ; if they do not, we are stronger than they 
— we can either expel them from the settlements, or, if 
their acts should deserve it, hang them from the nearest 

The Tories were admitted to the community, con- 
ducted themselves as good citizens, and thus the colony 
was re-enforced by about twenty good riflemen. Eobert- 
son had heard previously of the surrender of Cornwallis ; 
but these Tories reported that the British forces were 
shut up in Charleston, and that, about sixty days before, 
civil government had been re-established in South Caro- 
lina. In these two events Eobertson saw the beginning 
of the end, and he bade his comrades to be of good cheer^ 
for the day was dawning. 

The next accession to the settlement occurred in the 
following summer. North Carolina was largely in ar- 
rears to her soldiers. She had fed them with poorly 
lithographed promises ; but these were now worth only 
one cent on the dollar. Two hundred dollars was the 
price of a bushel of corn ; it was also the pay of a private 
soldier for six months, and consequently he had to live 
upon two bushels of corn per year. On such rations the 
soldier could not be expected to do very effective service ; 



so North Carolina stopped his pay altogether, and said to 
him, "If you will feed and clothe yourself, and fight like 
a man to the end of your enlistment, I will, for what I 
now owe you, and your future service, give you a warrant 
for a broad farm west of the Alleghanies/' 

These warrants the State called *^ bounty-warrants," 
and the lands "bounty-lands"; but at this distance of 
time it is not easy to perceive what bounty there was 
in canceling the just dues of the scarred and war-worn 
soldier by grants of wild land, which he would have to 
cultivate with the plow in one hand and a rifle in the 
other, fighting the Indians at his own expense and risk, 
and with the express assurance that he was to receive no 
aid or protection from his government. As these war- 
rants were forced upon the soldier — those, or nothing, 
being his alternative — there would seem to have been not 
only meanness, but positive injustice, in the transaction. 
However, like many other unjust things in this world, it 
was overruled for good. It secured a more speedy settle- 
ment of the country west of the Alleghanies ; and, more- 
over, it sent there the men who had borne the brunt 
of the war on the seaboard, and who were specially fitted 
to subdue the savages and the wilderness. They emi- 
grated to the Watauga and the Cumberland by thousands, 
and it is asserted — and I think with truth — that Tennes- 
see holds to-day the bones of more Revolutionary soldiers 
than any other State in the Union — all which is due to 
the "bounty" policy of the parent State, North Carolina. 

By the summer of 1782 very many of these "bounty- 


warrants " had been issued, and then North Carolina 
sent out commissioners to *' locate " the lands — that is, 
to ascertain where they were, define their boundaries, and 
map them with sufiBcient accuracy to enable the settler 
to recognize his own proj^erty. With these commis- 
sioners went a body-guard of one hundred men, and a 
large number of families took advantage of this guard 
to secure a safe passage to the Cumberland. Thus were 
the settlements largely augmented in numbers. One of 
the commissioners was .Isaac Shelby, who soon after- 
ward settled in Kentucky, and became its first Governor ; 
and another, Anthony Bledsoe, an older brother of Isaac 
Bledsoe, and a trusted friend of Robertson. Bledsoe was 
a prominent citizen of Southwestern Virginia, had been 
one of those who rushed to the rescue of the fort at 
Watauga in 1776, and he had served with distinction 
in the war, rising to the rank of colonel. He soon 
afterward settled at Bledsoe's Lick — now Castalian 
Springs — about thirty-five miles north of Nashville; 
and his coming brought many of his old companions in 
arms, and contributed largely to the prosperity and 
progress of the new settlements. 

The return of spring brought a renewal of Indian 
hostilities. The commissioners, with their guard of a 
hundred men, were not molested ; but any small party 
venturing into the forest was very sure to have a bloody 
encounter. Still, either because the Indians were less 
numerous, or the settlers more cautious, the casualties 
were fewer during this than any preceding year. The 


total death-roll for 1783 was only twenty-one, and five of 
those lost their lives in an attempt to erect what was 
afterward known as Buchanan's Station, about five miles 
southeast from Nashville. The Northern tribes seemed 
to have given up the contest. The hostiles were gen- 
erally Chickamaugas ; and after September even they 
suddenly ceased their incursions, for again had Sevier 
descended upon their towns with fire and sword, forcing 
them to stay at home to make provision for their fami- 
lies during the winter. 

Thus relieved from immediate hostilities, Robertson 
made overtures of peace to Old Tassel, the well-disposed 
and peace-loving old man, who had succeeded Oconos- 
tota as chief-king of the Cherokees. Robertson, when 
at Watauga, had held friendly relations with this chief- 
tain ; and he felt confident that, if he were assured of 
the amicable disposition of the whites, he would consent 
to a treaty that would secure peace with the larger 
and more orderly portion of his nation. With the law- 
less Chickamauga bandits there could be no peace. No 
treaty would bind them. Their natural element was 
war ; and they could be restrained from rapine and 
bloodshed only by the kind of pressure that Sevier had, 
time and again, brought upon them. 

Robertson's friendly overtures were accepted by Old 
Tassel, and soon afterward came news of the proclama- 
tion of peace with Great Britain. There being no longer 
any immediate danger from the Indians, the settlers left 
their crowded quarters in the forts, erected cabins out- 


side, and overflowed the country in all directions. The 
new-comers now flocking into the settlement were gen- 
erally Revolutionary soldiers, seeking their bounty-lands ; 
but many of them were men of substance, bringing 
horses, cattle, and other material wealth into the coun- 
try. Among other things they brought were the 
"latest fashions," and, seeing those, the original Orusoes 
once more assumed the raiment of civilization, though 
to procure it they had to journey hundreds of miles 
through the woods to the store which General James 
Wilkinson had recently established at Lexington, Ken- 
tucky. The young men, however, still adhered to buck- 
skin hunting-shirts and leather breeches ; and it is said 
that even among the young women some of the under- 
garments continued to be of the same durable material. 

The desperate struggle for her own existence over^ 
North Carolina had time to think of her desolate off- 
spring on the distant Cumberland. She gave them now 
a legal existence — a Court of Common Pleas and Quarter 
Sessions, and erected their territory into a county, called 
Davidson, with the right to send two representatives to 
the General Assembly. The members at once elected 
were Eobertson and Anthony Bledsoe. Among Robert- 
son's first acts as a member of the Assembly was one to 
procure the opening of a land-office at the Bluff, and the 
incorporation of the place as a town under the name of 
Nashville, in honor of a patriot soldier who had been 
slain at the battle of German town. 

Having now a name, a court-house, a prison, and 


a dozen log-houses, the present capital of Tennessee 
may be said to have fairly begun a political existence. 
The court-house was of logs, ^^ eighteen feet square, 
with a lean-to of twelve feet on one side of the house," 
and it was furnished with benches, a bar, and a table 
for the use of court and jurors. The prison was of 
about the same style and dimensions ; and the dwell- 
ings were very much like the edifices still to be seen 
in the backwoods. They were of logs, generally rough- 
hewn, and chinked with clay. The windows were 
mere openings in the walls, secured by a stout shutter, 
but destitute of glass, though sometimes furnished with 
oiled paper as a substitute. The floors were of split 
puncheons, the roofs of clapboards, and the doors of 
stout plank, hung upon wooden hinges, iron being too 
scarce and valuable to be used for much besides horse- 
shoes. The inside furnishing of these domiciles was in 
keeping with their outer appearance. A few splint-bot- 
tom chairs, a rough pine table, a rustic bedstead, or 
often a pile of buffalo-robes, in use as a bed, were the 
more prominent articles of furniture. 

The land-office was the center of activity in the new 
town. It was a small shanty of cedar poles, but it was 
besieged daily with crowds of land-hunters, immigrants, 
and Revolutionary soldiers, eager to have their claims en- 
tered and their lands surveyed, that they might become 
citizens of the new country. Everything was of the most 
primitive description, but everywhere could be seen tokens 
of a coming civilization. Ugly worm-fences were creep- 


ing around stumpy or blackened patches of ground, amid 
which corn was growing, and cane was being stacked for 
the cattle. In the forest the woodman's axe was echoing, 
and the great trees were falling, and every here and there 
a small cabin was going up, to be the home of the settler 
and his family. It seemed as if a better day had dawned 
upon the settlement. 

Robertson was a regular attendant upon the sessions of 
the Legislature. The distance from the State capital was 
seven hundred miles, and for more than half of the way 
the route was still the hunter's trail through the woods 
of Kentucky, infested by wild beasts and by savages, 
who, whether at peace or war, were always belligerents 
when they could take the white man at a disadvantage in 
the forest. Immigrants never took the route except in 
considerable bodies ; but Robertson and Bledsoe usually 
came and went alone, with no other guard than their 
faithful dogs, that kept watch over them while, wrapped 
in their buffalo-robes, and their horses tethered beside 
them, they made their bivouac among the timber. Sin- 
gle travelers, and even small companies, seldom traversed 
the route without molestation ; but, though he often 
came upon the Indian camp-fires, Robertson never en- 
countered the savages. No doubt this was partly due 
to his sleepless vigilance, and skill in wood-craft ; still 
it is most remarkable. Passing unharmed through so 
many perils, it is not strange that, like Sevier, he came 
at last to believe that he bore a charmed life, for which 
no Indian bullet would ever be molded. It is certain 


that the loss of his life would have been the death-knell 
of the settlements along the Cumberland. 

Kobertson's visits to the Legislature were great events 
in the little community. On such occasions he carried 
•^the mail," and bore numberless commissions to be exe- 
cuted in the older settlements ; and he seldom returned 
without an extra pack-horse laden with packages for his 
friends and neighbors. With his head full of great 
affairs — the designs of the savages, or the legislation 
needed for the settlement — he had to think of a pound 
of tea for a neighbor's wife, a blue ribbon for his daugh- 
ter, or a copy of Dilworth's ^' Speller," or Cheever's '* Ac- 
cidence" for some aspiring youth who was ambitious to 
spell and speak the English language with "elegance and 
propriety." They were a primitive people, and he was 
their patriarch and lawgiver ; but he was also "a servant 
of servants unto his brethren." 

The court which Eobertson established was invested 
with many of the attributes of sovereignty. It was 
made a legislative body as well as a judicial tribunal. 
It could enact sumptuary laws, regulate the currency, 
open roads over other territory, and raise and embody 
troops — in short, it could do almost anything which did 
not involve a call upon the State treasury. Its empty 
exchequer North Carolina guarded with a vigilant par- 
simony which appears contemptible when it is consid- 
ered that Robertson and his compatriots were adding a 
daily increasing value to its vacant lands beyond the 
Cumberland Mountains. To every enactment was ap- 


pended a "Provided always" that the total expense 
should be borne by the tax-payers of Davidson County. 
Money and protection were things to be exclusively ap- 
propriated to the older counties. 

In the exercise of its plenary powers Robertson's 
''Court of Quarter Sessions" made some enactments 
which are curiously illustrative of the time, and the 
character of the settlers. It being important to keep 
peace with the Indians, the court decreed that no one 
should be allowed to trade with or visit them without a 
written permit from the authorities. Profane swearing, 
intemperance, and other vices were prohibited. It was 
a Qp^ed y^ Samuel Henry be fin** lOss for profanely swear- 
ing y* pres""® of y* c* " ; and even John Rains, the Joab of 
the young community, was arraigned for profanely abus- 
ing a neighbor on the public thoroughfare. As he paid 
down his fine, the gallant captain remarked to the court : 
''I do not object to having to pay for speaking the 
truth ; but, fine or no fine, I do insist that he is the 

d st scoundrel in the settlement ! " adding also some 

other expletives, which showed that he intended to have 
the full worth of his ten shillings. The court frequently 
enforced a State law of 1741, which enjoined the omis 
si on of all secular employments, and a punctual attend- 
ance on public worship on the Sabbath. Under this act 
two persons were once arraigned, the one for buying, and 
the other for selling, a ''lying-out" negro on Sunday; 
but they were both acquitted, because it was shown that 
they had not consummated the bargain on the holy day. 


One had merely said to the other, *^If it were not Sun- 
day, I would give you so much for the darkey " ; and, 
as there was no overt action, they were both let off 
with the verdict of *^Not guilty; but don't do so 

But this godly people did drink whisky. It was 
brought down the river from Kaskaskia, and was so 
much in demand that the traders were encouraged to 
exact for it exorbitant prices. To remedy this evil, the 
court enacted that no jDcrson should be allowed to ask or 
receive for good "Kaskaskia rum " more than one dollar 
per gallon. This price having failed to attract the de- 
sired supply, an enterprising individual announced his 
intention to erect a distillery. This Eobertson opposed, 
very much against the sentiment of the majority of the 
people; and, fearing that the "constitutional right" of 
his court to prohibit the erection would be questioned, 
he went direct to the Legislature and procured the pas- 
sage of a law with this preamble : " Whereas, crops be- 
ing short, and grain scarce, owing to the obstruction of 
agriculture by the withdrawal of planters and laborers to 
oppose the infesting savages, sound discretion requires 
that the grain should be preserved for the subsistence of 
the settlers, and of the new immigrants upon their ar- 
rival." Therefore, no distillations of corn or other grain 
should be allowed in Davidson County. The speech which 
Robertson is reported to have made on this occasion is 
a model of oratorical brevity. It was simply, " The con- 


perversion of the bounty of Providence. It is unservice- 
able to white men, and devilish for Indians." Eobertson 
held his own against the majority for fully three years ; 
but then the appetites of his constituents got the better 
of him, and a distillery was erected in the teeth of the 
law and of his opposition. It was called the ^^Red 
Heifer," and the custom of the distiller was to blow a 
cow's horn whenever a ^'run" of the hot fluid was ready 
for his thirsty customers. It was served out in a drink- 
ing-cup made from the horn of a buffalo, and the West- 
ern phrase, ** Taking a horn," is said to have originated 
from this circumstance. 

Among the other laws enacted by Robertson's court 
was one establishing a legal currency, for even with their 
primitive habits these people were given to buying and 
selling. There was not a dollar of gold or silver in the 
country ; and, therefore, Robertson had to look about for 
some other circulating medium. In a like emergency 
nearly every one of the colonies had compelled some prod- 
uct of the land or forest to act as a legal tender. Rob- 
ertson adopted about everything that could be worn or 
eaten, and he affixed a price to '* bounty- warran ts " and 
*' guard certificates" — which represented certain quan- 
tities of land — thus making terra fir ma itself pass from 
hand to hand like more portable articles. It became a 
common expression to say, '^I will take, or give," a 
"three- twenty," or a **^ six-forty " — those figures denot- 
ing so many acres. A valuable six-hundred-and-forty 
acre tract in the suburbs of Nashville was once sold 


for ''three axes and two cow-bells/' and another for 
''a good rifle and a clear-toned bell/' 

Large numbers of Tories, who had been driven 
from the older counties, began to arrive on the Cum- 
berland soon after the war was over. Such as con- 
ducted themselves like good citizens were allowed to 
remain ; but all disorderly characters were driven away, 
and took final refuge with the Chickamaugas, or with 
the pirates along the Mississippi. Those who remained 
were required to take an oath of allegiance ; but it was 
enacted by the court that no one who had borne arms 
against the country should hold any office, or consent to 
be a candidate for any, under a penalty of fifty pounds. 
This does not seem to have deterred some of the Tories 
from aspiring to local honors, for the penalty was soon 
increased to five hundred pounds. Robertson was will- 
ing to allow to every man freedom of opinion, but none 
could share in the government of the settlement who had 
not been loyal to the united colonies. 

The organization of a court naturally attracted law- 
yers to the community. Two came, and soon afterward 
a physician made his appearance. Their incoming was 
deplored by Captain Rains, who predicted as a conse- 
quence a scourge of lawsuits and diseases. The predic- 
tion does not, however, appear to have been fulfilled. 
The scanty records of the court are evidence of remark- 
able harmony among the people ; and the small number 
of deaths from natural causes shows that the doctor's 
medicines, if taken, did no special damage to the com- 


munity. This physician was the inventor of a famous 
pill, which at first was universally popular ; but, it be- 
ing soon discovered that it was compounded of bread 
and sugar, his patients decided to take sick and die in 
the natural manner ! 

A more important addition to the settlement was the 
Kev. Thomas B. Craighead, one of the ablest and most 
self-devoted of those pioneer preachers who did so much 
for the civilization of the West. Robertson had pro- 
cured the passage of an act incorporating the ^'^ David- 
son Academy," and, meeting this gentleman at the State 
capital, he i^iduced him to accept its presidency, and 
join him on his return to the Cumberland. A log- 
building was at once erected and a school opened, where 
instruction was given in the ordinary English branches 
at the rate, say the minutes, "of four pounds per annum, 
to be paid in hard money, or other money of that value." 
This was the beginning of the present ^' University of 

The advent of Mr. Craighead was soon followed by 
that of the Rev. Benjamin Ogden. Mr. Craighead was 
a scholarly gentleman, fitted to grace the "academic 
grove " ; but Ogden was one of that rare race of men who 
have their homes in their saddles, write their sermons 
on horseback, carry their libraries in the crown of their 
hats, and preach wherever they happen to be — in the log- 
church, the country school-house, or under some spread- 
ing tree of the wide forest. These circuit-riders have 
been the true evangelists of the backwoods — worthy dis- 


ciples of the Master who ''had not where to lay his 
head " ; and the good they have done will never be 
known till the great day of accounting. At a later 
time Mr. Ogden had a meeting-house at Nashville ; but 
now he went about from hamlet to hamlet, proclaim- 
ing everywhere the "glad tidings," and with such effect 
that he soon had gathered no less than sixty-three iuto 
the fold of the Methodist Church. As a result of his 
preaching, small log-buildings began to spring up about 
the settlements, to be used as school-houses on week- 
days and as churches on Sundays. A description of one 
of these primitive edifices I extract from an old chroni- 
cle : * "A heavy piece of plank or hewn timber had 
holes bored through it with a large auger, and four legs 
inserted, and these were placed in front of the pulpit 
and occupied by men and women, who all sat apart. 
No book, no cushions, no kneeling-stools, no carpets — 
the naked floor and hard seats ; and here the congrega- 
tion would often remain patiently while two long ser- 
mons were delivered. Long journeys were taken in 
those days to attend religious services, and the people 
always attended dressed in their best Sunday-clothes. 
Mothers would carry their children for miles to enjoy a 
'gospel feast.' Many of the poorer classes of young 
women went on foot, and carried their shoes and stock- 
ings in their hands, rolled up in cotton handkerchiefs, 
till they came near the meeting-house, when they would 

* Quoted in Clayton's " History of Davidson County." 


turn aside, array their feet, and appear in the congrega- 
tion as neat as a new pin." 

Following the peace with the Cherokees there were 
for a time fewer depredations from the Indians ; but in 
the summer of 1784 small bands again began to prowl 
around the settlements. They soon became so trouble- 
some that Robertson increased his force of scouts to 
about a hundred, whom he kept, under Captain Rains, 
constantly patrolling the forest. This, however, with- 
drew so many from agricultural employments that at the 
opening of the next Legislature he applied for a force of 
three hundred men, to serve as a permanent guard, and 
to open a wagon-road from the Clinch River to Nash- 
ville, and, when it was finished, attend at stated points 
to escort immigrants to the Cumberland. The law was 
passed with the usual proviso '' that the moneys arising 
from the tax of land west of the Appalachian Mountains 
shall be appropriated to the purpose of discharging the 
expense of raising, clothing, arming, and supporting the 
troops to be embodied." The same act provided that 
four hundred acres of land west of the mountains should 
be laid off for six months' pay of each private, and a pro- 
portionate quantity for any further service. The officers 
of this guard, also, should be paid in a like manner. 

The law was passed, but it was nearly two years be- 
fore the force was fully raised. The men were recruited 
principally in the Watauga district, and placed under 
command of Nathaniel Evans, who had an honorable 
record as one of Sevier's captains ; but as the troops 


could not well subsist upon land, the Davidson County 
court levied a tax for their support upon the inhabit- 
ants, ^^ payable in specifics," such as corn, beef, pork, 
and other provisions, and a small amount in money to 
defray the expense of delivery at the stations. Each 
man was also entitled to receive in each year " one 
blanket, one good woolen or fur hat, one pair of buck- 
skin breeches, and one ditto waistcoat, lined." 

When the road was opened, a larger number of immi- 
grants began to seek the Cumberland region — not only 
horsemen, carrying their entire household goods upon 
a single led animal, but wagon-trains, laden with the 
effects of a more wealthy class of settlers. The route 
had never been trodden by immigrants, and the passage 
across the mountain is described as picturesque beyond 
description. Dark laurel-thickets, and frowning cliffs 
and precipices, guarded the way to the summit-level, 
where a boundless natural meadow stretched away in 
all directions, walled in by gigantic ledges of stratified 
limestone and sandstone, which had stood there in soli- 
tude since the primeval ages. This — the Cumberland 
Table-Land — was all a vast upland prairie, carpeted 
with luxuriant grasses and flowering plants, and tenanted, 
as far as the eye could see, by immense herds of elk, 
deer, and buffalo, gamboling in playful security, undis- 
turbed by the approach of man, and unterrified by the 
explosion of his death-dealing rifle. 

The appearance of this force of riflemen soon drove 
away the marauding savages, and the incoming settlers 


were not molested. Among those who now came in were 
Valentine Sevier, the brother of John Sevier, and the 
families of the brothers Bledsoe, and of Evan and Moses 
Shelby, and John Donelson. The settlements were ex- 
tended as far away as the present town of Clarksville ; 
and in a census taken about this time to levy the tax for 
the support of the soldiery, the number of white men 
above twenty-one years is given as four hundred and sev- 
enty-seven, and of male colored servants as a hundred and 
five. Nashville shared in the general prosperity. It had 
been laid out into two hundred one-acre lots, twenty-six 
of which were at once sold at the price of four pounds 
each, with the condition that the purchaser should build 
and finish within three years one well-framed log, brick, 
or stone house, "sixteen feet square at least, and eight 
feet clear in the pitch." The place had now a court- 
house, a jail, an academy, and a distillery, and nothing 
further was wanted to make it a center of eighteenth- 
century civilization but a store for the barter and sale of 
general merchandise; therefore, great was the universal joy 
when, one sunshiny day in March, 1784, ten pack-horses, 
which had journeyed for six weeks from Philadelphia, 
over the Cumberland Mountains, and all the way across 
the State of Virginia, halted before a rough log-shanty on 
the main thoroughfare, and unloaded their freight of pins 
and needles, cheap calicoes and linens, and coarse woolens, 
in the presence of the whole assembled township. Hereto- 
fore the nearest market for the settler's peltries, and the 
only place where he could procure any article of civilized 


apparel, had been the store of General Wilkinson, at Lex- 
ington, Kentucky ; but henceforth he was to have both 
market and supply at his own doorway. This fact, more 
than the presence of the fort, the court-house, the jail, 
or the distillery, tended to make Nashville the metropo- 
lis of the growing settlements. 

It seemed now as if the colony were at last established 
upon a secure and permanent basis, and that the faith, 
courage, and fortitude of Kobertson were about to receive 
their appropriate reward. No doubt he thought so, and 
felt a thrill of pride when he looked on what his hands 
had wrought. Few men have walked this earth with a 
firmer tread, a clearer eye, a more upright soul than he ; 
but even he could not discern the gathering cloud, or 
hear the far-off, muttering thunder — the portent of the 
storm of war which was about to burst upon the devoted 



I2sr a previous volume,* I have given a brief outline 
of the Spanish imbroglio which from 1784 to 1796 
harassed the border settlements, and threatened to sever 
the trans- Alleghany region from the Union. I need not 
here repeat what is there said ; but, as that complication 
entailed upon Eobertson twelve more years of savage 
warfare, it is necessary, to a clear understanding of the 
narrative, that some further reference should here be 
made to it. 

By the treaty with France of 1763, Great Britain had 
acquired possession of all the territory along the eastern 
bank of the Mississippi, and of the right to navigate 
that river through its whole extent ; and when she 
acknowledged American independence, she transferred 
this territory, and right of navigation, to the United 
States. It was subsequent to this cession that she 
ceded to Spain her rights to the Floridas. As a conse- 
quence, the American right was prior to that of Spain ; 

* "John Sevier as a Commonwealth-Builder," pp. 103-112. 


but Spanish troops had, during the Revolution, taken 
from Great Britain some few feeble posts east of the 
great river ; and on the strength of this Spain laid claim, 
as early as 1780, to a portion of what is now Kentucky, 
to all of Tennessee that lies west of the Hiwassee, Ten- 
nessee, and Clinch Rivers, and to nearly the whole of the 
present States of Alabama and Mississippi. The answer 
to this claim was that, down to the thirty-first parallel, 
all east of the Mississippi was within the American 
boundary, and that the United States had never contem- 
plated, or agreed upon, any division of territory with 
their allies. Robertson had settled within these limits ; 
and the importance of his settlement, in a national point 
of view, was that, by virtue of it, possession had been 
taken of this disputed territory by the United States. 
Moreover, Robertson had opened a way over which Anglo- 
Saxon immigration would speedily pass to the Mississippi 
Valley. This would endanger the Spanish possessions west 
of that river. Not only the principles of the two govern- 
ments were antagonistic ; the character, sentiments, and 
habits, of the two races were so at variance that they 
could not exist together, or as near neighbors. The truth 
was crudely expressed by a Creek chieftain. *^ Indians 
and Spaniards," he said, ^^can ride the same pony — the 
Indian on before. But Americans must always ride in 
front. If they get up behind, they soon take the reins, 
and manage the pony." This fact was well understood, 
by the Spaniards. 

The Count of Aranda, the able prime minister of 


Spain, had advised Charles III to unite with France in 
supporting the cause of the revolted colonies ; but he had 
no sooner affixed his signature to the Treaty of 1783, 
which acknowledged their independence, than he ad- 
dressed a secret memoir * to his sovereign, in which he ex- 
pressed the opinion that Spain had acted in opposition to 
her interests in espousing the cause of the United States, 
because the existence of a free government in America 
would be highly dangerous to the Spanish- American 
possessions. *^ This federal republic," he said, "is born 
a pygmy. It has required the support of two such 
powerful states as France and Spain to obtain its inde- 
pendence. The day will come when it will be a giant, a 
colossus formidable even to these countries. It will for- 
get the services it has received from the two powers, and 
will think only of its own aggrandizement. The liberty 
of conscience, the facility of establishing a new popula- 
tion upon immense territories, together with the advan- 
tages of a new government" (meaning, doubtless, /ree) 
" will attract the agriculturists and mechanics of all na- 
tions, for men ever run after fortune ; and, in a few 
years, we shall see the tyrannical existence of this very 

colossus of which I speak 

**The first step of this nation, after it has become 
powerful, will be to take possession of the Floridas, in 
order to have the command of the Gulf of Mexico, and, 
after having rendered difficult our commerce with New 

* "De Bow's Review," May number, 1847, p. 411. 


Spain, it will aspire to the conquest of that vast empire, 
which it will be impossible for us to defend against a 
formidable power established on the same continent, and 
in its immediate neighborhood. These fears are well 
founded ; they must be realized in a few years, if some 
greater revolution, even more fatal, does not sooner take 
place in our Americas." 

Events have shown that these views were prophetic. 
They shaped the subsequent policy of Spain, and they 
explain the tenacity with which she held on to every 
acre of soil that would serve as a rampart to her 
North American possessions ; and account for the du- 
plicity, falsehood, and wholesale assassination, to which 
she was ready to resort to cripple the power of the new- 
born giant of the West. But watchful as she was of 
the growth of this young Hercules, she seems to have 
overlooked the fact that its advance-guard — few in num- 
ber, but with the open Bible in their hands — had already 
scaled the Alleghanies, and was even then proclaiming 
civil and religious liberty at the very doorway of her 

The attention of the Spanish authorities appears to 
have been first drawn to this fact, and its probable con- 
sequences, by Alexander McGillivray, a half-breed chief 
of the Creek nation. This man is one of the most pict- 
uresque characters in Southwestern history, and, inas- 
much as he exerted a strong influence upon the events 
I am narrating, he requires here a few words of descrip- 
tion. He was more a white man than an Indian. His 


father was a Scotch gentleman of good lineage, and his 
mother a Creek princess of the most influential family 
in the nation. Her father had been a French officer of 
Spanish extraction, and consequently McGillivray had in 
his veins the blood of four races, while in his character 
were the cliaracteristics of them all — the cool sagacity of 
the Scotchman, the polished urbanity of the Frenchman, 
the subtle duplicity of the Spaniard, and the unrelent- 
ing hate and remorseless cruelty of the Creek Indian. 
His natural talents were of a high order, and had 
been carefully cultivated by his father's brother, who 
had designed him for a civilized career ; but, on arriv- 
ing at early manhood, he had preferred to go back 
to his mother's people, among whom he soon rose 
to the position to which he was entitled by the rank of 
his family and his own uncommon ability. The Creeks 
had no king, but a multitude of elective chiefs, each 
one supreme in his own town, and independent of any 
central authority. However, these chiefs usually acted 
in concert, and submitted to the leadership of some one 
of commanding abilities. Though not of their nation, 
Oconostota, the famous king of the allied Cherokees, had 
been their acknowledged leader for nearly half a cent- 
ury ; but he was no sooner dethroned, than McGillivray 
was admitted to supreme authority in the nation. 

He at once assumed the degree of state that seemed 
to him becoming to a leader of ten thousand redoubtable 
warriors. He took to himself a number of wives, and 
built and furnished as many ^^ palaces," where he dwelt 


iu a sort of barbaric splendor, and entertained his visitors 
with a prodigal hospitality. He never moved about 
among his own people but with a numerous escort, nor 
traveled among the whites without a brace of body- 
servants, arrayed in gorgeous livery. His raiment was a 
strange mixture of savagery and civilization, as also 
was his nature, in which were blended the cultivated 
gentleman and the wild Indian chief ; the polished Greek 
and Latin scholar and the untamed savage, following the 
trail of his enemy with the keen scent and ferocity of 
the panther. His personal appearance, as described by 
the historian of Alabama, was as peculiar as his charac- 
ter. He was, it is said, six feet high, spare made, and 
remarkably erect in person and carriage. His eyes were 
large, dark, and piercing. " His forehead was so pecul- 
iarly shaped that the old Indian countrymen often spoke 
of it. It commenced expanding at his eyes, and widened 
considerably at the top of his head. It was a bold and 
lofty forehead. His fingers were long and tapering, and 
he wielded a pen with the greatest rapidity. His face 
was handsome, and indicative of quick thought and 
much sagacity. Unless interested in conversation, he 
was disposed to be taciturn, but even then was polite 
and respectful."* 

The same historian likens him to Talleyrand ; and 
he had some of the qualities of that statesman, for he 
succeeded in persuading British, Spaniards, and Ameri- 

* Pickett's " History of Alabama," vol. ii, p. 142. 


cans that he was honestly serving their interest, when 
all the while he was only faithfully pursuing his own. 
He pla3^ed them all like puppets against one another, and 
so is entitled to rank as a rare if not a great diploma- 
tist. He had actively aided the British in the Revolu- 
tion, and in retaliation the Americans had confiscated 
some of his property. This had excited his deep ani- 
mosity ; and the war was no sooner over, than he deter- 
mined to have his revenge by the extermination of every 
American settler beyond the Alleghanies. This he could 
accomplish only by a combination of all the Western 
tribes, and by such an alliance with Spain as would 
supply him with the requisite arms and ammuni- 

The treaty of peace of September, 1783, was no soon- 
er known to McGillivray, than he wrote to the Spanish 
Governor of Pensacola, proposing a treaty of alliance 
and commerce with Spain. In this letter he adroitly 
alluded to the Western settlers, and spoke of their rapid 
increase and progress toward the Mississippi, where, he 
said, if they once formed settlements, it would require 
"much time, trouble, and expense to dislodge them." 
He also stated that the settlers were employing every 
means to make his nation their friends, and that, if an 
alliance were not effected between himself and the 
Spaniards, the Creeks might become dangerous neigh- 
bors by assisting the Americans in their hostile designs 
upon Mobile, Pensacola, and the other Spanish posses- 


This threat was not needed to bring the Spaniards 
into the savage coalition, for both they and McG-illivray 
had the same object. A treaty was accordingly entered 
into between them at Pensacola on June 1, 1784, by 
which the Spaniards agreed to supply McGilliyray with 
arms and ammunition without limit, and, to whet his 
zeal, promised him a private pension. Subsequent cor- 
respondence between McGillivray and Miro, the Spanish 
Governor of Louisiana, fully reveals the fact that the ob- 
ject of this treaty was the total breaking up of all the 
American settlements west of the Alleghanies. It was 
intended to be secret, for the policy of the Spanish 
Government was not to array itself in open hostility 
to the newly-formed United States. However, to dis- 
courage further settlements beyond the mountains, the 
Spanish king announced to Congress that under no 
circumstances would he consent to the navigation of the 
Mississippi by the Americans. 

The force which McGillivray relied upon to exter- 
minate the Watauga and Cumberland settlers numbered 
not far from twenty thousand warriors. He was him- 
self the recognized head of eight thousand — six thou- 
sand Creeks and two thousand Seminoles — he could rely 
absolutely upon two thousand Chickamaugas ; and he 
expected to encounter no difficulty in enlisting the re- 
maining three thousand Cherokees, and seven thousand 
Choctaws and Chickasaws. These Indians were the 
bravest and most warlike on the American Continent, 
and the Creek chief was justified in thinking that with 


them lie could sweep Sevier and Robertson and their 
forty-five hundred no better-armed riflemen beyond the 
Alleghanies. The Kentucky settlers he would leave to 
the Northern Indians, who gave so crushing a defeat to 
General Saint Clair a few years later, and who, he 
thought, could easily be brought into the coalition. It 
was to be a similar combination to that planned by Te- 
cumseh twenty-seven years later, and having the vast 
advantage of operating against a far weaker enemy. 

But one half of these Indians hung back from the 
coalition — the three thousand Cherokees, from a dread 
of John Sevier's rifles ; and the seven thousand Choc- 
taws and Chickasaws, because of the friendship which 
Piomingo, the Chickasaw chief, had conceived for Rob- 
ertson. With less than the whole twenty thousand, 
McGillivray deemed it hazardous to move against Sevier ; 
for what Indian blood was in him shared the super- 
stitious dread that was felt by the rest of his race for 
the *' Great Eagle of the pale-faces." Hence, he de- 
ferred a general attack until he could personally visit 
the reluctant tribes and bring them into his measures. 
Meanwhile he would give his immediate followers a taste 
of blood by letting them loose upon the four hundred 
and seventy-seven settlers who were holding their ground 
with Robertson on the remote Cumberland. 

The odds were terrible ; but again that heroic handful 
withstood the overwhelming tide of barbarism. Once 
more the Indians were on every by-path and around every 
man's dwelling, and again all the settlers had to flee to 


the fortified stations. Three of Kobertson's sons, his 
trusted friends the two Bledsoes, and, in fact, nearly 
all the leading men in the Cumberland settlements, were 
struck down by the tomahawk before the conflict ended ; 
but, where one old settler fell, two new-comers took 
his place, and thus was that more than Eoman hero 
enabled to continue the contest, and to hold that remote 
outpost of civilization. Piomingo stood firmly by his 
side, and even took the war-path against his enemies ; 
but on two occasions it was only timely help from Sevier 
that saved the settlements from extermination. 

McGillivray did not at once descend upon the Cum- 
berland settlers in oyerwhelming numbers. A war of 
extermination did not at first comport with Spanish 
policy. The end of Spain would be gained if the colo- 
nists were driven beyond the Alleghanies. McGillivray, 
therefore, let loose upon them at the moment only so 
many of his savages as would suffice to drive away the 
settler's game, stampede his cattle and horses, destroy 
his crops and growing grain, and render his life so in- 
secure that he would be glad to abandon the settlements. 
This was the policy at first agreed upon between the 
Creek chief and the representatives of his Catholic 

The principal Creek towns were nearly three hun- 
dred miles south from Nashville, and, to make a nearer 
rallying-point for his warriors, McGillivray established 
a village on the west bank of the Tennessee, near the 
site of the present town of Tuscumbia, one of the most 


charming spots in Alabama. The place was called 
Occoposwo — a name which, in the Creek language, signi- 
fies cold water — and it was so styled from a luxuri- 
ant spring which gushes from a cave near the river, and 
now supplies water to the neighboring village. From 
this point the Indians could float down the Tennessee 
to within a short distance of the Cumberland settle- 
ments, and, though not much more than a hundred miles 
away, could here secrete their booty in absolute security 
— their locality unsuspected by the whites, for no Indian 
town had ever been known in that region. Word of 
the intended hostilities had been sent to the Chicka- 
maugas, whose towns were higher up on the same river, 
and a body of about sixty of that lawless tribe, under 
the chief Scola-Cutta, or, as he was styled by the whites, 
" Hanging Maw," were the first to go upon the war-path. 
To this small party Kobertson himself came near fall- 
ing a victim. He had gone into the forest, accompanied 
by a surveyor, and Colonel Weakley, a prominent citizen, 
when he was suddenly surrounded by this body of sav- 
ages. His dogs were with him — some of the same fero- 
cious creatures which had saved his life in the attack on 
the fort at Nashville. Every settler kept a pack of these 
animals, and he never ventured into the woods without 
one or more of them. To their watchful sagacity he 
often owed his life and the safety of his dwelling. They 
had a natural antipathy to an Indian, and no length of 
acquaintance, or amount of caresses, would avail to win 
for him their confidence. If even a friendly Chickasaw 


came to the settlements they would follow him about, 
watch his every gesture, and thrust themselves between 
him and their master on all occasions, with every evi- 
dence of watchful animosity. In the forest they would 
scent an Indian as they would a deer, and they could not 
be quieted till their warnings were heeded. The most 
of them were of a species of hound, of graceful form, 
large pendulous ears, and eyes denoting great sagacity 
and intelligence. Very docile with their masters, they 
were very savage with his enemies. They were greatly 
dreaded by the Indians, who often fled before them as if 
they had been human antagonists. On this occasion the 
dogs gave timely notice of the approach of ^^ Hanging 
Maw " and his sixty Chickamaugas, and Robertson and 
his companions at once sprang upon their horses and 
made all speed to the fort. The Indians followed in a 
desperate chase, for '* Hanging Maw " knew Robertson, 
and it would have won him great glory to have killed or 
captured the ^^ chief of the pale-faces." Robertson and 
Weakley got away in safety, but the surveyor was over- 
taken, shot down, and horribly mangled. 

A few days subsequently this same body of savages 
came upon a party of six surveyors, who had gone into 
camp for the night upon a small island formed by a little 
creek that flows into the Cumberland near the present 
town of Williamsburg. The men had removed their hats 
and shoes, and were gathered about the fire in prepara- 
tion for the night's sleep, when suddenly their dogs gave 
the usual warning of an enemy. The men listened, but. 


knowing of no hostile Indians, they thought the alarm 
was caused by wolves that were attracted by the remains 
of their venison supper. Seeing in this no danger, they 
heaped more logs upon the fire, and threw themselves 
upon the ground around it for rest and slumber. This 
all had done except John Peyton, the leader of the party, 
when there was a sudden report from a score of near-by 
rifles, and four of the six were more or less wounded. 
Springing to his feet, Peyton threw his buffalo-robe over 
the fire, to give his men a chance to escape in the dark- 
ness. This they did, wounded as they were, and, after 
incredible hardships and hair-breadth escapes, made their 
way to Bledsoe's Station, forty miles distant. There 
Peyton learned the name of the chief who had attacked 
his party, and soon afterward he sent him word that he 
would be welcome to the horses, guns, blankets, and other 
articles he had captured, if he would return to him his 
chain and compass. '^ Hanging Maw "sent this reply : 
"You, John Peyton, ran away like a coward, and left all 
your property. As for your land-stealer — I have broken 
that against a tree." 

These two attacks spread instant alarm throughout 
the settlements, which now were scattered for fifty miles 
up and down the Cumberland ; and the terror was in- 
creased when it was soon discovered that the small band 
of Chickamaugas had been re-enforced by much larger 
numbers. The more exposed positions were at once 
abandoned, and again all the people gathered together in 
the stronger stations, as they had done during the previ- 


ous war with the Cherokees. Once more it was death to 
venture beyond rifle-range of a fort. Still, the conflict 
was not so very unequal. Counting boys above sixteen, 
the settlers able to bear arms now numbered above six 
hundred, every one of whom was at once enrolled and 
placed under competent captains. At least one half 
of this force, under such experienced woodsmen as Eains 
and Castleman, were kept in bodies of about fifty, con- 
stantly patrolling the forest, and woe to the savages with 
whom they came in contact ! A rifle never cracked but 
it sounded the death-knell of an Indian ; but, where one 
fell, another rose in his place, and so the bloody work 
was continued. 

What at first gave Kobertson the most concern was 
the fact that the defeated Indians invariably retreated 
westward, in the direction of the towns of his friends the 
Chickasaws. This indicated that Piomingo was playing 
him false, and that he had now to confront the Choctaws 
and Chickasaws, as well as the lawless Chickamaugas. 
This, surely, was bad enough, but it was worse to feel 
his confidence abused — and he had trusted Piomingo im- 
plicitly. He sent to him a plain " talk," frankly stating 
his suspicions, and the grief they gave him. The an- 
swer which came from the Indian chief gave assurance 
of his friendship, but disclosed to Eobertson a more for- 
midable enemy. 

" The heart of Piomingo," said the chief, 'Ms sore at 
the thought that has come to his white brother. His 
heart is straight, and so is the heart of Piomingo. Not 


one of Piomingo's young men has been upon the war-path 
against the children of his white brother. The servants 
of the King of Spain have been among the young men of 
the Chickasaws, tempting them with large money to take 
the scalps of his brother's white children, and to drive 
them beyond the mountains ; but the young men would 
not listen. The great enemy of the white chief is the 
King of Spain ; he has seduced the Creeks to make war 
upon him ; but why they have always come westward 
when they have fled before his white brother, Piomingo 
does not understand, unless they have built a town some- 
where upon the great river Cherokee" (Tennessee) "in 
which to hide their plunder. Piomingo does not love 
the Creeks, and he will send some of his young men 
upon a long hunt to find the town where they hide, that 
his white brother may come upon and punish them as 
they deserve." 

The result was the discovery of the town of Cold- 
water by two of Piomingo's warriors, whom he at once 
dispatched to Robertson with directions to guide him 
to the Creek stronghold. It would be a most hazard- 
ous enterprise — the raid of a handful into the very heart 
of the Indian country ; for, to leave the settlements 
properly protected, Robertson would be able to take 
only a small force on the expedition. But, at whatever 
hazard, Robertson felt that something must be done 
to stop the inroads of the savages upon the settlements. 
Not a week passed but they were seen lying in wait 
about some of the stations, and one by one the best 


men among the settlers were falling. John Donelson 
had been shot down while riding alone in the woods ; and 
only a few days before, Robertson's own brother, Mark, 
had been waylaid, on returning from a social visit to his 
family, and brutally slaughtered when within half a mile 
of his dwelling. Sevier's tactics of carrying the war into 
the enemy's country had always been successful, and 
this now seemed to Robertson his only hope of securing 
peace to the settlements. None of the settlers had ever 
been south of the Tennessee, and a knowledge of the 
country around Coldwater was essential to the success 
of the expedition. Everything, therefore, would depend 
upon the good faith of the Chickasaw guides ; but with 
one of them — a chief named Toka — Robertson was well 
acquainted, and he thought he could be trusted. 

The expedition decided on, a call was made for volun- 
teers, and one morning in June large numbers came 
together at Robertson's plantation, about four miles west 
of Nashville, known to this day as the ^' Camp-Ground." 
Only one hundred and eighty were selected for the 
expedition, but among them were Rains's and Castle- 
man's rangers, every one of whom was skilled in wood- 
craft, and equal to a dozen not familiar with Indian 
warfare. All were well armed with rifles and hunting- 
knives, and each one carried a plentiful supply of dried 
meat and parched corn in his knapsack. A canoe of 
rawhides, light enough to be borne on the back of a 
horse, was taken along to ferry the arms and ammuni- 
tion across the Tennessee, but the crossing of the men 


was to be accomplished by swimming, or by means of 
boats which the guides thought could be captured from 
the Indians. 

All being in readiness to set out, the men were 
marched into Nashville, to take a farewell of their wives 
and children, who had gathered there from all the near- 
by stations. It was an anxious time, for all knew the 
desperate character of the expedition, and mothers bade 
good-by to sons, and wives to husbands, as if they 
might never see them again. The little army was to 
set out in two bodies : one portion, of a hundred and 
thirty men, under Robertson, to proceed on horseback 
through the forest ; the rest, under Moses Shelby and 
Robert Hays, a son-in-law of Donelson, to make their 
way in boats down the Cumberland and up the Tennessee. 
The boats were laden with surplus provisions, and would 
afford a comfortable conveyance to any who might be 
disabled by wounds or sickness. The two parties were 
to meet at a point on the Tennessee which is still known 
as Colbert's Landing — so called from a Chickasaw chief 
who there exacted toll from all who passed up and down 
the river. 

Leaving the settlements in command of Colonel 
Bledsoe, Robertson set out on his hazardous expedi- 
tion. His route lay through an unbroken forest, never 
before trodden by a white man. Success depended upon 
the secrecy of his movements ; and therefore, avoiding 
the Indian trail over which the marauding Creeks had 
come to the settlements, lest he should be seen and re- 


ported by some roving band, he struck into the wide 
wilderness, taking his way across swift mountain-streams 
and through deep, rocky defiles, where often his men 
had to dismount to cut a path for their horses amid the 
tangled undergrowth. His only guide was the sun, for 
the Chickasaws had followed the accustomed trail, and 
knew no better than he the way through the untrodden 
forest. Thus the party journeyed for a week, when, 
about noon of the seventh day, they heard a low, rum- 
bling sound, as of far-away thunder. The air was still, 
the vertical sun shining in unclouded splendor ; there- 
fore the sound could be no other than the distant roar 
of the furious Tennessee where it races down the long 
rapids still known as the Muscle Shoals. Near the foot 
of those shoals was the town of Coldwater, and with 
renewed courage the weary men pressed more eagerly 
forward. Kaj)idly the sound came nearer, till it echoed 
among the trees like the long roll of countless drums 
calling them to battle. 

At sunset they went into bivouac, and Eobertson 
sent out the two Chickasaw guides, and a half-dozen of 
his best woodsmen, to reconnoitre. Meanwhile, their 
horses attended to, the men gathered around the camp- 
fires for their evening meal, and to discuss in low tones 
the chances of the day that was coming. Each one spoke 
with bated breath, for all knew they were near the Creek 
stronghold, and that any unusual sound might bring 
upon them an overwhelming force of the enemy. Some 
few of the number had been with the murdered Donel- 


son on the memorable Sunday of March 12, 1780, when 
with a hundred and thirty helpless women and children, 
and but a slender guard, he ran those dangerous rapids 
under a running fire from two thousand Chickamaugas ; 
and now, as the dull roar of the falls came to their ears, 
Kobert Cartwright, one of the adventurous guard, re- 
hearsed to his comrades the story. He told how for 
three long hours, at furious speed, the little fleet of 
forty flat-bottomed boats and canoes plunged down those 
thirty miles of whirlpool, the water foaming and eddy- 
ing before them, and on either shore the remorseless 
savage, his gun poised for their destruction ; how the 
frail boats were dashed about in the rough river, caught 
now upon some projecting rock, whirled now off into 
the mad stream, and now shot forward with a velocity 
so fearful that the weary voyagers momently expected 
to be dashed in pieces. A watery grave yawned in their 
front, a death still more horrible was on either flank ; 
but those brave men, with iron sinews, bent to their 
oars, and at last guided the frail fleet through in safety. 
It was a stirring tale, and as the men listened each one 
felt a thrill of vengeance, and longed impatiently for the 
morrow. Doubtless they would encounter some of those 
same savages at the Cold water. 

At midnight the scouts returned, rejoorting the river 
ten miles away, and yet so clear was the air that the 
roar of the rapids seemed to be at not half that dis- 
tance. Now the knowledge of the Chickasaw guides 
became of value to the expedition. They had visited 


the place on but one occasion, but so keen is the obser- 
vation of the Indian that, having once obtained their 
bearings, the entire locality was distinctly mapped in 
their minds. The town of Cold water was on the oppo- 
site shore and several miles lower down the river ; and 
due south from the encampment was a smaller town, 
which now appeared to be deserted. At this point the 
river was a mile in width, but the water was at so low a 
stage that for three fourths of the distance it could be 
forded ; the rest of the way would require a stout boat, 
or a strong swimmer, for the current was rapid, and the 
water foamed among breakers. Some miles higher up 
was a better crossing, but with this the guides were not 
acquainted. At Coldwater Robertson had expected to 
encounter several hundred Indians, but the deserted con- 
dition of the smaller town indicated that the most of 
them were now away on marauding expeditions. If this 
were so, his expedition would be well-nigh fruitless. 
However, he would move forward to the river at the 
nearest crossing, and then let his movements be governed 
by circumstances. 

Robertson had laid himself down under a wide- 
branching tree for a few hours' sleep, when he was sud- 
denly awakened by one of his outer pickets, who re- 
ported that he had been fired upon by a strolling Indian. 
The picket had pursued the '' rascal " for some distance, 
but he was fleet of foot, and had got safely away into the 
forest. He had fled toward the southeast — the direc- 
tion of the Chickamauga towns in the vicinity of Look- 


out Mountain — and a day's travel at an Indian's pace 
would bring him to the lair of the banditti. This would 
apprise them of the presence of Robertson, and one of 
two results would follow : either they would surmise that 
the whites were coming to attack them, and so would 
remain to defend their homes ; or they would divine the 
real object of the expedition, and drop down in their 
canoes to the re-enforcement of Cold water. The first 
was the more likely supposition, for Robertson was some 
distance to the east of a direct course to the Creek 
stronghold. This fact would probably mislead the 
Chickamaugas for a time, but only for a time — as soon 
as they discovered their mistake they would hasten to 
the succor of their comrades. In either event the safety 
of the expedition now depended upon the celerity as 
well as the secrecy of its movements. 

With the first glow of dawn the little army began 
its march at a slow pace, and in utter silence. At 
noon they came in sight of the broad Tennessee, skirted 
here with a forest of cane, fifteen and twenty feet high, 
and so dense that the crashing through it of a body of 
horsemen would surely be heard by an enemy on the 
opposite shore. Secrecy for the moment was of more 
importance than celerity, so the men were halted in the 
outskirts of the cane, while Toka and a few of the 
rangers were sent forward to reconnoitre. Proceeding 
cautiously on foot, they soon came to the bank of the 
river, which here spreads out like a mountain-lake, 
broad and sluggish, and, except in mid-channel, very 


shallow. Secreting themselves in a cave at the water's 
edge, the scouts anxiously scanned the river. Just above 
them were the Muscle Shoals, uttering the same deep bass 
which had greeted the dawn of creation ; and opposite 
was the Indian town, silent and deserted, with not the 
crow of a cock, or the yelp of a dog, to break the omi- 
nous stillness. 

So the men waited in utter silence till the west-going 
sun was several hours below the meridian, and then the 
quick ear of Toka caught a faint sound from among the 
deserted cabins. Soon a couple of Indians crept down to 
the opposite shore, and gazed cautiously up and down the 
river. For a while they stood there in silence, as if listen- 
ing intently ; then, hearing and seeing nothing to cause 
alarm, they waded boldly out to a small island near to 
that bank of the river. Here they unmoored a large 
canoe which had been hidden among the cane, and pad- 
dled out as if to cross to where the scouts were secreted. 
Toka looked at his white companions, and each one un- 
slung his rifle in readiness for their coming. But the 
Indians halted in mid-river, abandoned the canoe to the 
current, and plunged into the water. After disporting 
in it for a time, they recovered the canoe, and paddled 
back to the island. Then wading ashore, they disap- 
peared in the forest ; and one of the men went back to 
Robertson to report what they had witnessed. The in- 
ference he drew was that the presence of his little force 
was not yet discovered — the wary approach of the two 
Indians to the river he attributed to the natural caution 


of the savage. However, the incident showed that he 
was in hourly danger of being seen by some straggler 
from Coldwater, and he determined to cross the Tennes- 
see that night at all hazards. If this were not done be- 
fore the Indians had knowledge of his presence, a small 
body of them might so post themselves as to render the 
crossing extremely dangerous, if not altogether impos- 

Eains had been dispatched up the river, with a small 
party of rangers, to discover any movement in that direc- 
tion ; and now a messenger was sent after him with 
orders to return to the encampment. He soon ar- 
rived, reporting that he had gone fifteen miles, but had 
seen nothing. Evidently the Ohickamaugas were as yet 
in ignorance of Robertson's movements. If they would 
remain in that condition another twenty-four hours, 
Robertson would let them dwell in security, for he was 
not fool-hardy enough to court a conflict in the open 
field with two thousand of the most savage warriors on 
the continent. At last night came, and then with 
his little army he moved cautiously forward to the 

The night was without a moon, but the sky was clear, 
and the stars were out in their brightness. The rawhide 
boat was launched, and loaded with the arms and ammu- 
nition, and Robertson called for volunteers to swim to 
the island, and bring over the canoe of the Indians. 
Two expert swimmers at once came forward, and, with- 
out any ceremony, plunged into the river and disap- 


peared in the darkness. They were gone so long that it 
was feared some mishap had befallen them, but at last 
they returned with the canoe, accounting for the long 
delay by saying they '''had got bothered in the darkness, 
and swam a long time without making much headway, 
but finerly tuck a star to course by, and landed safely." 
The canoe was old and leaky ; but filling its rents with 
some of their garments, about forty men embarked in it 
and set out for the opposite shore. They had not gone 
far before the leaky craft began to sink, and they were 
obliged to return and repair damages. This consumed 
the most of the night, for the woods had to be searched 
for the bark of the linn- tree with which to patch the 
rents ; and day had begun to dawn when the forty 
were landed on the opposite shore. Stout swimmers had 
at the same time propelled over the rawhide boat, and 
now, supplied with their arms, the men took position to 
repel any sudden assault from the Indians. Seeing that 
their companions had safely crossed the river, the men on 
the other bank now plunged into the stream, and — some 
on tlie backs of their horses, and some swimming by 
their sides — they all reached the opposite shore in 

The sun had risen with a cloudless sky, but the men 
had no sooner landed than one of those sudden storms to 
which this region is subject burst upon them, and till it 
was over the whole party took refuge in the deserted 
cabins. Here they dried their clothes as well as they 
could, and freshly primed their rifles, and then, the 


clouds clearing away, they mounted their horses. A 
well-beaten path led directly from where they were to 
the town of Coldwater, and entering this they moved 
silently forward. At the distance of about five miles 
they came to an Indian corn-field, which the guides re- 
ported to be about two miles from the village. Here 
they left the path, and, striking directly through the for- 
est, soon came to the narrow creek which is formed by the 
overflow of the spring that gave its name to Cold water. 
About three hundred yards away was the Indian town, 
and there, seated carelessly on the grass, were forty-five 
Creek and Cherokee warriors, and nine French and Span- 
ish traders — the larger number of the savages being away 
marauding among the settlements. The canoes of the 
Indians were moored at the mouth of the creek, and 
expecting they would attempt to escape in them, Rob- 
ertson dispatched Rains and a small force in that direc- 
tion. The crossing of the creek, and the path beyond, 
would admit of the passage of but one horseman at a 
time, and in this order the little force now struck into 
a gallop, Robertson leading the way. 

The rest is soon told. Twenty-six Indians and four 
of the traders were slain on the spot — some on the green, 
and some by Rains in the river. The remaining traders 
surrendered ; but the other savages escaped, to carry fire- 
brands throughout the two Indian nations. Among the 
killed were two prominent chiefs — one a Creek, the other 
a Cherokee. A large amount of traders' goods were 
found in the cabins, and also a plentiful supply of arms 


and ammunition bearing the brands of the Spaniards. 
This last fact was convincing evidence that Spain was 
abetting the Creeks in their attacks upon the settle- 

The captured goods being removed to the canoes, fire 
was set to the dwellings, and Coldwater went up in a 
smoke that might have been seen as far away as Chicka- 
mauga. Then, setting a strong guard, the little army 
encamped for the night, and in the morning took up its 
march homeward. A small force was detailed to man 
the boats, which were to drop down to Colbert's Land- 
ing, and there wait to ferry the others across the river. 
The two bodies met there about sunset, when the prison- 
ers were given a boat and their personal goods, and al- 
lowed to go at liberty. At the same time Toka, and the 
other Chickasaw, were each presented with a horse, a 
rifle, and an abundance of the captured wares, and sent 
away rejoicing to their nation. In nineteen days from 
his setting out, Robertson was back at Nashville, with not 
a man of his command wounded or missing. 

A like good fortune did not attend the party of fifty 
who set out by water for Colbert's Landing. They had 
proceeded safely down the Cumberland, and were slowly 
rowing up the Tennessee, when at the mouth of Duck 
Eiver, Shelby's boat was fired upon by a large body of 
Indians lying in ambush on the shore, and nine of his 
men were more or less badly wounded. Drawing quickly 
out of rifle-range, the officers of the several boats held a 
consultation. They were propelling their way against 


the current, and their progress would of necessity be so 
slow that the enemy on shore could easily outstrip them, 
and pour upon them a constant fire, against which their 
open boats afforded no protection. Upon the entire route 
they would be a slow-moving target for the enemy. It 
was therefore decided to abandon the expedition. Ac- 
cordingly, they fell rapidly down the river, with the in- 
tention of returning to Nashville by water, for it was 
at once discovered that two of the men were badly 
wounded. One of them, Hugh Rogan, had been shot 
entirely through the lungs ; another had received a bul- 
let in his brain, and his wound soon proved to be mortal. 
He was seated in the bow of the boat, spearing fish 
with a sharpened cane when he received the shot, and 
he continued in the same position, spearing imaginary 
fish, and showing no sign of mortal hurt, till his 
limbs suddenly relaxed, and he fell forward lifeless. 
No doubt this was a phase of ^^unconscious cerebra- 
tion," in which the ideas that were passing through 
his mind at the moment he was shot continued to act 
and control his muscles when he no longer consciously 
directed his movements. The way home by water was 
long and toilsome, while the distance overland did not 
exceed a hundred miles ; but the officers thought the 
land route could not be taken with the wounded Rogan. 
Rogan, however, was of a contrary oi)inion ; and, shot 
through the lungs as he was, he actually marched the 
whole of the way, carrying his gun and accoutre- 
ments ! 


In a report of tlie expedition which Eobertson at 
once forwarded to the Governor of North Carolina, he 
said : " From the constant incursions of the Indians, I 
have been obliged to keep the militia very much in serv- 
ice on scouts, guards, etc., and have been under the 
necessity of promising them pay. I hope you will 
ajoprove the promise I have made the inhabitants. I 
have not an opportunity of seeing Colonel Bledsoe, or I 
make no doubt he would join me in informing your 
Excellency that our situation at present is deplorable. 
Deprived of raising subsistence, and constantly harassed 
with performing military duty, our only hope is in the 
troops promised us by the General Assembly ; but 
as yet we have no news of them. I earnestly beg 
your Excellency to forward them with all possible 
expedition." In closing his report Eobertson said : 
"We were piloted by two Chickasaws in this expedi- 
tion. Their nation seem on every occasion our friends, 
and, if it were possible to supply them with trade at 
the Chickasaw Bluff, there is no doubt but they and 
the Choctaws would find full employment for our 

Very few of the promised troops arrived, and the 
trade " — guns and ammunition — was not furnished to 
the friendly Chickasaws ; in other words, Eobertson was 
left, as he had been from the first, to his own resources. 
In these circumstances, desperate as the attempt would 
be, he decided to follow up his raid upon the Creeks by 
a like assault upon the Chickamaugas. Gathering a con- 



siderably larger force, he set out upon the expedition ; 
but before he had reached the savage stronghold he was 
met by a delegation from the Indians, who made such 
promises of peace and good behayior that he was in- 
duced to march his men back to the Cumberland. 



The raid upon Coldwater, though it inflicted no 
material damage upon the Creeks, was of service to 
Robertson in disclosing the route by which the savages 
approached the settlements. The captured guns and 
ammunition also afforded positive evidence of the alli- 
ance between the Indians and the Spaniards. He saw 
now that he had a long and bitter war before him, and 
he made such preparations to meet it as were pos- 
sible in the circumstances. He sent out several expedi- 
tions under Captain Rains to scour the forests in the 
direction of the Elk and Tennessee Rivers, and that 
vigilant officer never returned without having inflicted 
severe punishment upon some marauding band on its 
way to the Cumberland. 

But, when one route was closed against the Indians, 
they took another, and soon they were again upon every 
by-path and around every station in the settlements. 
They seldom appeared in considerable numbers ; but 
parties of four or five would conceal themselves in the 
canebrakes, or amid some clump of trees, and lie in 


wait for the settler when lie went out to his work in the 
field, or to a spring for a bucket of water. Now and 
then larger bodies would boldly approach a station, and, 
discharging their guns upon it, would suddenly retreat, 
as if to get out of range of the settler's rifle, but in 
reality to draw him off into an ambuscade. Often at 
about daybreak they waylaid the gates of the forts, to 
fire upon the first person who should appear in the 
morning. No one was safe at any hour of the day or 
night, and neither sex nor age was spared. A moment's 
exposure brought upon the settler the merciless toma- 
hawk and scalping-knife. If the savages had combined 
their forces in concentrated assaults upon the vari- 
ous stations in succession, instead of dissipating their 
strength in numberless attacks at the same moment, it 
is not easy to conceive liow the feeble settlements could 
have escaped extermination. 

McGillivray seems to have tired at last of this guer- 
rilla warfare, which proved more destructive to his own 
warriors than to the whites ; for, when it had gone on 
about two years, word came to Robertson from the 
Chickasaws that in a grand council the Creeks had 
determined upon a final and overwhelming effort to 
crush the Cumberland colony. Robertson was short of 
ammunition, and totally unprepared for such an on- 
slaught. At once he applied to North Carolina for aid ; 
but Governor Caswell answered that it was impossible 
to render him any. Then he made a trip into Ken- 
tucky, and the settlers there promised to come to his 


help as soon as they had harvested their crops. That 
Eobertson feared would be too late, and, consulting 
with Anthony Bledsoe, he decided to apply to Sevier. 
Sevier had been the first thought of both, but they knew 
that he was then ^''hunted like a partridge upon the 
mountains." His own affairs seemed enough to engross 
his attention ; but the emergency was so pressing that 
Eobertson no longer hesitated to ask his assistance. Ac- 
cordingly, he wrote to Sevier as follows : 

" Nashville, August 1, 1787. 

" Sir : By accounts from the Chickasaws, we are in- 
formed that, at a grand council held by the Creeks, 
it was determined by that whole nation, to do their 
utmost this fall to cut off this country ; and we expect 
the Cherokees have joined them. Every circumstance 
seems to confirm this. . . . 

'^ The people are drawing together in large stations, 
and doing everything possible for their defense. But 
I fear, without some timely assistance, we shall chiefly 
fall a sacrifice. Ammunition is very scarce ; and a 
Chickasaw now here tells us they imagine they will re- 
duce our stations by hilling all our cattle, and starving 
us out. 

*^ We expect from every account that they are now on 
their way to this country to the number of a thousand. 
I beg you to use your influence to relieve us ; which I 
think might be done by fixing a station near the mouth 
of the Elk, if possible, or by marching a body of men 


into the Cherokee nation. Eelieve us in any manner 
you may judge beneficial. We hope our brethren will 
not suffer us to be massacred by the savages, without 
giving us any assistance ; and I candidly assure you 
there never was a time in which I imagined ourselves in 
more danger. . . . 

*' Kentucky being nearest, we have apjolied there for 
assistance, but fear we shall find none in time. Could 
you now give us any ? The people here will never for 
get those who are their friends in a time of such immi 
nent danger. ... I hope that no diversion will prevent 
you from endeavoring to give us relief, which will be 
ever gratefully remembered by the inhabitants of Cum- 

*^And your most obedient humble servant, 

"James Kobertson." 

At about the same time Anthony Bledsoe wrote to 
Sevier, and his letter is here given in full, as it affords a 
vivid picture of the situation. It was as follows : 

" Sumner County, August 5, 1787. 

'* Dear Sir : When I had last the pleasure of seeing 
your Excellency, I think you were kind enough to pro- 
pose that, in case the perfidious Chickamaugas should 
infest this country, to notify your Excellency, and you 
would send a campaign against them without delay. 
The period has arrived that they, as I have good reason 
to believe, in combination with the Creeks, have done 


this country very great spoil by murdering numbers of 
our peaceful inhabitants, stealing our horses, killing our 
cattle, and burning our buildings ; through wantonness 
cutting down our corn, etc. 

*^I am well assured that the distress of the Chicka- 
mauga towns is the only way this defenseless country 
will have rest ; the militia being very few, and the whole 
country a frontier, its inhabitants all shut up in stations, 
and they, in general, so weakly manned that, in case of 
an invasion, one is scarcely able to aid another — and the 
enemy in our country daily committing ravages of one 
kind or another, and that of the most savage kind. 
Poor Major Hall and his eldest son fell a sacrifice to 
their savage cruelty two days ago, near Bledsoe's Lick. 
They have killed about twenty-four persons in Ms 
county in a few months, besides numbers of others in 
settlements near it. 

''Our dependence is much that your Excellency will 
revenge the blood thus wantonly shed. 

"Your obedient servant, 

"ANTHOi^T Bledsoe." 

Sevier's answer to these two letters has not been pre- 
served, but it is known that he at once called for volun- 
teers to fill up the battalion of Major Evans to the three 
hundred which the North Carolina Legislature had 
assigned for the protection of the Cumberland settle- 
ments — which battalion had never numbered above fifty, 
owing to the disinclination of the men east of the mount- 


ains to fighting Indians on meager rations of wild land, 
leather breeches, and parched corn at a yaluation of 
four shillings per bushel. But the "tall Watauga boys" 
were deterred by no such considerations. They sprang 
up, ready armed, at the call of Sevier, and they asked 
no questions about pay, or the condition of the commis- 
sary department. Thus it was that in a very few- days 
upward of two hundred of them, with an abundance 
of ammunition, were marching over the Cumberland 
Mountains to the re-enforcement of Evans. 

This done, Sevier dispatched four hundred men to the 
mouth of Elk River, as had been suggested by Robertson. 
Stationed there, between the Chickamauga towns and the 
Creek crossing at Cold water, this force would hold the 
Creeks in check until Sevier and the Governor of Georgia 
should muster an army adequate to an attack upon both 
nations. That Sevier did this will be seen fi*om the 
following letter which he dispatched to Governor Mat- 
thews : 

"Mount Pleasant, Franklin, August 30, 1787. 

*'SiR : I had the honor to receive your favor of the 
9th inst. by the express. ... I have inclosed your Ex- 
cellency copies of two letters from Colonels Robertson 
and Bledsoe, of Cumberland, wherein you wall be in- 
formed of the many murders and ravages committed in 
that country by the Creeks. It is our duty, and highly 
requisite, in my opinion, that such lawless tribes be re- 
duced to reason by dint of the sword. . . . 


" I am yery sensible that few of our goyernments are 
in a fit capacity for such an undertaking, and ours per- 
haps far less than any other ; but, neyertheless, be as- 
sured that we will encounter eyery difficulty to raise a 
formidable force to act in conjunction with the army of 
your State in case of a campaign. . . . 

**Our Assembly sat but a few days. The only busi- 
ness of imj^ortance done was the making a proyision for 
the defense of our frontier, by raising four hundred men, 
which is nearly completed. They are to be stationed in 
the vicinity of Chickamauga, and in case of actual opera- 
tions against the Creeks this number will be [at once] 
ready. " 

At this yery time Seyier was concerting with Govern- 
or Matthews for a combined attack upon the Creeks, 
with a force of three thousand, one half of which he had 
agreed to furnish. The attack was not made, because of 
the appointment by Congress in October, 1787, of com- 
missioners to treat with that nation. Sevier, however, 
soon called for a larger body of volunteers, and de- 
scended with fire and sword upon the Chickamaugas, 
thus diverting them, for a time, from their raids upon 

To appreciate these efforts of Sevier for the relief of 
the Cumberland settlers, it needs to be considered that — 
there being no funds in the Franklin treasury — his 
troops had to be equipped at his personal cost, and that 
he was now under the ban of outlawry by the au- 
thorities of North Carolina, who soon afterward kid- 


napped and conveyed him over the mountains to be tried 
for high-treason. Thus aid to Eobertson came, not from 
the State which owed his people protection, but from the 
hounded and badgered man to whom that State was in- 
debted for its very existence ! 

The sudden appearance of Sevier's men in the Chick- 
amauga country must have been regarded by McGilli- 
vray as the advance of a larger body ; for he prudently 
kept his warriors at home to defend their own wigwams. 
The timely re-enforcement put Eobertson in a much 
better posture for defense, and he further augmented his 
effective strength by using the authority given him by 
the Legislature to call into service the new settlers who 
had come in under the escort of the troops. His whole 
force he organized into scouting-parties, which, under 
experienced leaders, he sent out to scour the country in 
all directions. It was the practice of the Indians to enter 
the settlements in considerable numbers, but then to 
separate into small bodies, and make their camps near the 
buffalo-trails, or the crossings of streams, in the vicinify 
of the stations ; but now it became extremely hazard- 
ous for any considerable number to come within fifty 
miles of any of the settlements. The ground through- 
out the forests was everywhere covered with a deep 
layer of leaves, over which a trail could be distinctly 
followed ; and to esca^^e the scouting-parties the Indians 
were now obliged to break into bodies of not more than 
half a dozen, and to keep generally to the beds of creeks, 
or the hard-beaten paths of the buffalo where their foot- 


prints would not betray them. Here they were searched 
for, and waylaid by the sagacious woodsmen, and here 
many a savage left his bones, far away from tlie burial- 
ground of his nation. 

Still, the sleepless yigilance of the scouts did not 
altogether save the settlements from the devastations 
of the Indians. If a farm-house were for a moment left 
unguarded, or a fort weakly defended, there echoed about 
it the war-whoop, and the hapless settler was forced to 
encounter the tomahawk and scalping-knife of his sav- 
age enemy. Murders and depredations continued till 
far into the autumn ; but, in consequence of the recent 
re-enforcements, the very existence of the settlements no 
longer depended upon the presence of Robertson, there- 
fore he took his accustomed seat at the session of the 
North Carolina Legislature in October. He soon ad- 
dressed some plain words to that body, which, after his 
custom, he put into the form of a memorial. The ad- 
dress stated that the inhabitants of the Western country 
were greatly distressed by the constant war that was 
waged against them by the Creeks, Cherokees, and some 
of the Western Indians ; it pictured the deplorable con- 
dition of the settlers, their crops and cattle destroyed, 
and their lives in danger whenever they lost sight of a 
fort or stockade ; and it added : ** These counties have 
been settled at great expense and personal danger to our- 
selves and our constituents ; and by such settlement the 
adjacent lands have greatly increased in value, by which 
means the State has been enabled to sink a considerable 


part of its domestic debt. We and our constituents have 
cheerfully endured almost unconquerable difficulties in 
settling the Western country, in full confidence that 
we should be enabled to send our i^roduce to market 
through the rivers which water the country ; but we 
have the mortification, not only to be excluded from 
that channel of commerce by a foreign nation, but the 
Indians are rendered more hostile through the influence 
of that very nation, probably with a view to drive us 
from the country, as they claim the whole of the soil. 
We call upon the humanity and justice of the State to 
prevent any further massacres and depredations of our- 
selves and our constituents, and we claim from the Leg- 
islature that protection of life and property which is due 
to every citizen. We recommend, as the most safe and 
convenient means of relief, the adoption by the Legisla- 
ture of the resolves of Congress of the 26th of October 
last. This relief, we trust, will not be refused, espe- 
cially as the United States are pleased to interest them- 
selves on this occasion, and are willing to bear the ex- 

The resolves of Congress alluded to were a recom- 
mendation of that body to all the States holding Western 
Jands to cede the same to the General Government, for 
the creation of a fund for the payment of the national 
debt. The new Constitution had been framed only a 
few weeks before, and its adoption by the States was as 
yet uncertain ; therefore, Robertson and his constituents 
were committing themselves to an unknown contin- 


gencj, and, at the best, submitting to the control of a 
distant power which had no knowledge of their situation 
and necessities. All this they realized, but any change, 
they thought, would be an improvement on the parsimo- 
nious rule of North Carolina. 

The memorial was respectfully received, and, after a 
long discussion, the settlers were fully authorized — to 
take care of themselves. An act was passed empower- 
ing them to adopt all offensive and defensive measures 
that might be necessary to their security, '' provided 
always" that they should make no claim, and impose 
no charge, upon the State treasury. This much ac- 
complished, Robertson returned to his constituents. 

The bloody work had continued in his absence. 
Evans and Rains, and the two Bledsoes, had been con- 
stantly in the saddle ; but the experienced Indian fight- 
ers furnished by Sevier had been able, in numberless 
small engagements, to put to rout and drive off the 
savages. The Indians now never appeared except about 
the more exposed forts and farm-houses ; but they still 
infested the settlements, and reports again came from 
the Chickasaws that the Creeks were still contemplating 
a raid in such numbers as to sweep the settlers beyond 
the Alleghanies. If he could but have guns and ammu- 
nition, Piomingo would march with them to exterminate 
that pestiferous nation. 

But arms could not be had. Korth Carolina would 
not furnish them, and they could not be procured else- 
where, because there was no money among the settlers. 


Peltries and produce they had in abundance, but, the 
Mississippi being closed against them by the Spaniards, 
by no means could they be got to market. In these 
circumstances Eobertson decided to resort to diplo- 
macy with the Creeks and Spaniards. He had an 
utter abhorrence of both those nations. He once said : 
" The Spaniards are inspired by the devil ; the Creeks 
by the devil and the Spaniards; and the worst devil 
in human form is the Creek chief, McGillivray." Dur- 
ing his recent visit into Kentucky he had met Gen- 
eral James Wilkinson, who had told him that he 
thought the Spaniards would open the Mississippi, and 
desist from inciting the Indians to hostilities, if they 
were assured that the settlers could be attached to the 
Spanish interest. Dissatisfaction, he said, with the older 
States was general throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. 
Of this the Spaniards were well aware, and they could 
doubtless be led to adopt a conciliatory policy toward 
the settlers if they had hope to thereby detach the 
Western country from the Union. Having turned the 
thought over in his mind, Robertson now acted on this 
hint from the wily Wilkinson. The settlers had given 
the Creeks no cause for hostility. They had not en- 
croached upon their territory, nor made war upon 
them except in defense of their own firesides. If other 
proof had been wanting, this made it evident that their 
murderous raids were instigated by the Spaniards. 
Robertson had corresponded with Miro, the Spanish 
Governor of Louisiana, and, to secure his good-will. 


had eyen named the Cumberland district in his honor. 
In return he had received from Miro the most friendly- 
professions, but no cessation of hostilities. He now 
decided to address McGillivray, whom he regarded as 
the. most potent agent of Spanish hostility. This he 
thought might lead to such negotiation as would result 
in a suspension of hostilities. Accordingly, early in 
March, 1788, in connection with Anthony Bledsoe, he 
addressed to McGillivray a letter inquiring the reason of 
the continued raids of the Creeks upon the settlements. 
This letter Robertson dispatched by two special 
messengers, James Hoggatt and Andrew Ewing, Clerk 
of the County Court, who in delivering it had to make 
a horseback-journey of more than five hundred miles 
through a forest infested with hostile savages. But they 
went and came in safety, and were received with courtesy 
by the Creek chieftain. In his reply McGillivray ad- 
mitted that he had waged war upon the Americans for 
several years past ; but stated that he had made up his 
mind to peace, when he was provoked to renewed hostili- 
ties by the affair at Muscle Shoals, in which several of 
his tribe had been killed; and he added : *^ These men 
belonged to different towns, and had connections of the 
first consequence in the nation. Such an unprovoked 
outrage raised a most violent clamor, and gave rise to the 
expedition against Cumberland which soon after took 
place. But, as that affair has been since amply retali- 
ated, I now, once again, will use my best endeavors to 
bring about a peace between us. Indeed, before I re- 


ceived your dispatches I had given out strict orders that, 
on the return of all hunting-parties, none should go out, 
on any pretense, until the first general meeting, which 
I expect to hold in May next, when all my influence and 
authority will be exerted in the manner you wish. . . . 
As I abhor every species of duplicity, I wish not to 
deceive. If I were not decided in settling and terminat- 
ing the war, I would not now write." 

The comment on these peaceable professions of Mc- 
Gillivray was the cold-blooded murder by some of his 
myrmidons of a young son of Robertson, in broad day, 
and within scarcely more than a stone's-throw of his fa- 
ther's dwelling ! The murder was committed on the eve 
of the return of the messengers, and the scalped and 
mangled remains of his son were still unburied when 
Robertson read this letter of the Creek chieftain. But, 
mastering his grief, he replied to McGillivray in terms 
of courtesy. He had not expected, he said, to be blamed 
for his recent expedition against the Indians below the 
Muscle Shoals. They were known to be a lawless ban- 
ditti, subject to the regulations of no nation whatever. 
He had been recently subjected to the agony of seeing 
one of his own children inhumanly massacred — a shock 
which almost conquered the fortitude that, from his 
earliest youth, he had endeavored to use as a shield 
against the calamities of life. He had on numberless 
occasions shown a friendly disposition toward the Creeks 
and Cherokees, and he besought McGillivray to restrain 
and punish the refractory part of his nation, as the only 


means of securing peaceful relations. Here his feelings 
as a man seem to have overcome him, and with a pathos 
that is touching in its simplicity he added : **' It is a 
matter of no reflection to a brave man to see a father, a 
son, or a brother, fall in the field of action. But it is 
a serious and melancholy incident to see a helpless 
woman or an innocent child tomahawked in their own 
houses. '' 

To this letter McGillivray replied in a most friendly 
tone. ''He had already," he said, '^ endeavored to re- 
strain the Chickamauga chiefs. Little Turkey and Bloody 
Fellow, from further hostilities, and he should persist in 
measures that would keep his own warriors from again 
molesting the Cumberland settlers." But this pacific 
missive, like his previous letter, had a bloody commen- 

Next to Robertson, Colonel Anthony Bledsoe was the 
most valuable member of the Cumberland community. 
He was an educated man, of cool courage, sound judg- 
ment, and wide experience in public affairs, having held 
various civil and military positions of importance, in the 
older settlements. His relations with Sevier, Governor 
Caswell, and other prominent men were of an intimate 
character, but for many years he had been the bosom 
friend and trusted counselor of Robertson, who, since 
Bledsoe's arrival on the Cumberland, had acted in no 
affair of importance without his advice and co-operation. 
In the event of Robertson's death, he was probably the 
only man in the settlement who could have brought it 


safely out of the fiery ordeal throngli which it was pass- 
ing. He had settled about thirty-five miles from Nash- 
ville, at a place now called Castalian Springs, where he 
had a large landed property, but during the recent raids 
he had for greater security removed his family to the 
station of his brother Isaac, about three miles distant 
from his own. The stockade was of the ordinary con- 
struction, having at one of its corners a double cabin, 
occupied one half by his own, the other by his brother's 
family. In this station on the night of the 20th of 
July, 1788, were the two Bledsoes, an Irishman named 
Campbell, the colonel's body-servant, a Mr. Clenden- 
ing, William Hall, the father of a subsequent Governor 
of Tennessee, and Hugh Rogan, who had but recently 
recovered from the wound through the lungs which he 
received on the Coldwater expedition. Suddenly about 
midnight all in the building were roused from sleep by 
the rapid passage of a body of horsemen through the 
lane in front of the station. Colonel Bledsoe at once 
arose, and, with his body-servant Campbell, went out to 
ascertain the cause of the disturbance. He incautiously 
unfastened the gate, and as he did so a volley was fired 
which brought him to the ground, and instantly killed 
his body-servant. Bledsoe was taken up, carried into the 
house, and laid upon a bed, while Hall, Rogan, and Clen- 
dening, manned the port-holes in expectation of an attack 
from the savages. 'No attack followed, but it was soon 
discovered that Colonel Bledsoe was mortally wounded, 
and could live but a few hours. Then occurred one of 


those instances of heroism which were so common among 
these settlers. Bledsoe had two sons and several daugh- 
ters, and, by the North Carolina laws of the period, only 
male heirs inlierited the real estate of an intestate. He 
desired to make a will to protect the interest of his 
daughters ; but it was discovered that there was no fire, 
nor any means of striking a light, on the premises. Then 
Hugh Rogan volunteered to go for a light to a neighbor- 
ing station. This he did, and returned safely with a 
burning brand in his hand, though he had to run the 
gantlet of not less than fifty savages. 

With this grief, and the loss of his son fresh upon 
him, Robertson called his confidential friends together to 
confer upon the answer to be given to McGillivray. He 
was a man of heroic mind, and of a fortitude rarely 
equaled ; but now his human heart was sorely tried, his 
manly nature rudely shaken. As the twofold calamity 
was alluded to at this gathering, and his friends spoke to 
him words of sympathy and condolence, he answered, in 
broken sentences: '^I could have given up my boy to 
secure a permanent peace. That should have been 
enough. I could now give my own life to atone for any 
wrong we have done the Creeks. But we have done 
them no wrong. They have waged against us an unpro- 
voked war ; and now they have killed our best citizen, 
and they constantly seek my life." 

He uttered no threats — spoke no word of vengeance ; 
but addressed himself, with unselfish thought, to the 
welfare of the settlements. His answer to McGillivray 


was cool, collected, and diplomatic. He was satisfied 
that the Creek chief was playing him false, but he be- 
trayed no such suspicion. He said : 

"Sir : I received your favors by Messrs. Hoggatt and 
Ewing, which have given great satisfaction. I trans- 
mitted copies to Governor Caswell, and have since seen 
them published in the * Kentucky Gazette.' 

'*^The Indians still continue their incursions in some 
measure, though trifling to what we experienced in the 
spring. I imagine it must be Cherokees, or some out- 
lying Creeks who are not acquainted with your orders. 
Colonel Anthony Bledsoe was killed by a small party 
about two weeks ago." .... 

This is all he says about the murder of his nearest 
friend. Then, with Wilkinson's suggestion in his mind, 
he retorts upon McGillivray some of his double-dealing 
in the following significant paragraph : ^' In all prob- 
ability, we can not long remain in our present state, and 
if the British, or any commercial nation who may pos- 
sess the mouth of the Mississippi, would furnish us with 
trade, and receive our produce, there can not be a doubt 
but that the people west of the Appalachian Mountains 
will open their eyes to their true interests. I shall be 
very happy to have your sentiments on these mat- 

Eobertson had no positive knowledge of the treaty 
existing between the Creeks and the Spaniards, but he 
judged that his letter would be promptly forwarded to 


the Spanish Governor at New Orleans. In this he was 
not mistaken. But in the same dispatch in which he 
inclosed Robertson's letter to the Spanish Governor, 
McGillivray asked for additional arms and ammunition 
that he might continue an unflagging war upon the Cum- 
berland settlers ! This fact McGillivray's correspond- 
ence, published in recent years, fully discloses. 

In reference to these overtures of Robertson, Hay- 
wood, the early historian of Tennessee, remarks : '^ Some- 
times the leaders of our unprotected settlers, pretending 
esteem for their officers, and a wish to be under their 
government, would procure an abatement of the horrors 
of war. But liberty to these settlers was of more value 
than all the benefits the Spaniards had it in their power 
to bestow. And though leaders might, in calamitous 
times and circumstances, think proper to temporize, they 
could never entertain the serious wish to coalesce with 
them. All the wealth of the Spaniards could not bear 
comparison with the single article of liberty." 



To understand the subsequent history of the colony 
under Robertson, it is necessary to now take a wider view 
of affairs west of the Alleghanies. The settlers on the 
Cumberland were merely the advance of a far larger 
body that, since 1770, had been climbing the mount- 
ains and overspreading the territory which now com- 
prises the States of Tennessee and Kentucky. The 
population of this extensive region, at the date to which 
this history has now arrived (1788), can not be stated 
with accuracy, but it was probably not far from eighty 
thousand. In 1790, by actual census, it numbered 
109,368— much the larger portion (73,677) being in- 
cluded within the district of Kentucky. Though under 
the rule of two States, which pursued toward their over- 
mountain citizens a totally opposite policy, the settlers 
in the northern and southern sections of this territory 
were, to all intents and pur^wses, one people. They 
were exposed to the same dangers, bound together by 
common interests, and affected in a similar manner by 


the complications which soon after the Eevolution arose 
between the United States and Spain, in regard to the 
navigation of the Mississippi. The danger by which 
they were mutually threatened arose from the hostility of 
the savages ; the principal interest they had in common 
was the opening of an avenue for their commerce to the 
markets of the world. 

It is not known what success attended McGillivray's 
effort to combine the Northern tribes in an attack upon 
the Kentucky settlements. It is probable that it was so 
far successful that those Indians agreed to come into the 
coalition, and planned a gigantic raid upon Kentucky, 
for in the autumn of 1784 it was reported everywhere 
in the district that, in connection with the Cherokees, 
they were about to descend upon it in overpowering num- 
bers. The alarm was so general that Colonel Benjamin 
Logan called a convention of citizens to meet at Danville, 
to concert measures for anticipating the attack by carry- 
ing the war into the enemy's country. 

The convention met, but soon discovered that no 
legal authority existed in the district which could call 
out the militia for offensive operations. This, together 
with the fact that there was no magazine of arms in the 
country, nor any public funds that could be applied to 
the purchase of war material, was seen to place the set- 
tlers largely at the mercy of the savages. The State 
government had already complained of Western expendi- 
tures. In case the citizens should arm and equip them- 
selves, might not Virginia refuse to reimburse the ex- 


penditure, and *'even to compensate for real losses"? 
At an earlier day, when their very existence had been at 
stake, every man had sprung spontaneously to the de- 
fense of the community ; but now, when they were so 
strong in numbers as to be free from danger of extermina- 
tion, some legal organization was needed to raise money 
for war purposes, enforce military duty upon the reluc- 
tant, and conduct offensive operations— the only ones 
which experience had shown to be efficient in the ward- 
ing off of savage aggression. The State administration 
was well disposed, but it was at too great a distance to 
act promptly in sudden emergencies. An efficient home 
government was absolutely necessary to the well-being 
and safety of the district. This was the universal senti- 
ment, and it led the assemblage to issue a call for a con- 
vention to meet at Danville in the ensuing December, to 
take into consideration the expediency of "a separation 
of the district from the parent Commonwealth, and its 
erection into an equal and independent member of the 
American confederacy." This was the first step taken 
by Kentucky toward a separate existence, and then began 
an agitation which during seyeral years had a most un- 
happy effect upon the entire Western country. 

Not being able to initiate offensive operations, the 
district took the best defensive measures that were possi- 
ble in the circumstances ; but for some unexplained rea- 
son the Northern Indians refrained from any general 
attack upon Kentucky. They confined themselves to a 
desultory warfare — descending in small bodies upon iso- 


lated farm-houses or exposed positions, and waylaying 
unprotected immigrants as they were moving down the 
Ohio. In this manner, says Judge Innis, in a letter to 
Henry Knox, Secretary of War, of date July 7, 1790, 
'^from November, 1783, to the time of writing, fifteen 
hundred souls have been killed in the district and emi- 
grating to it, upward of twenty thousand horses have 
been taken and carried off, and other property to the 
amount of at least fifteen thousand pounds."* Such a 
warfare was sufficiently grievous, but it did not, like that 
waged against the Cumberland settlements, endanger the 
very existence of the community. More severely felt 
was the hostile policy of Spain, which closed the Missis- 
sippi to Western commerce. 

The border settlers were altogether an agricultural 
peoj^le, and dependent upon the sale of their produc- 
tions for the tea, coffee, and other articles of luxury they 
had been accustomed to in the older settlements. But 
a wide wilderness, infested by hostile Indians, separated 
them from the frontier settlements of Virginia and 
Pennsylvania. The shortest route to Staunton was five 
hundred miles, and it could be traveled only by a well- 
mounted horseman. Extensive exchanges over the 
mountains were therefore impossible. The lighter kinds 
of merchandise could be brought by that route on 
pack-horses, and the heavier descriptions hauled by 
wagons to Pittsburg, and thence floated on keel-boats 

* Quoted in Butler's " History of Kentucky," p. 195. 


down the Ohio ; but the trip consumed several months, 
and the transit was so expensive as to place all imported 
goods beyond the means of any but the wealthier part 
of the population. The natural thoroughfare for both 
outgo and supply was the Mississippi Eiver. 

The closing of that river by the Spaniards, which thus 
shut the Western people out from the markets of the 
world, was not at first of serious moment, because the 
fast-incoming settlers readily consumed the surplus grain 
that was raised ; but when tobacco began to be grown, 
and the new-comers became themselves grain-producers, 
it was universally seen that its free navigation was an 
absolute necessity to the whole Western country. 

In the treaty of peace of 1783 was a secret article 
which stipulated that, in case Great Britain should ac- 
quire West Florida, the southern boundary of the 
United States should be extended so as to include that 
province, which was the acknowledged possession of 
S^min. This stipulation soon became known at Madrid, 
and, stung with indignation at this parceling out of his 
dominions, and already resolved upon the policy of ex- 
termination suggested by McGillivray, the Spanish king 
lost no time in dispatching a message across the ocean, 
informing Congress that until Spain should admit that 
the boundary between her possessions and the United 
States was correctly described in the English treaty, she 
should assert her claim to the sole navigation of the Mis- 
sissippi, and should exclude all American vessels from 
its waters. 


Prior to this, Congress had directed its attention to 
commercial intercourse with foreign nations, and, on re- 
ceipt of the Spanish message, it promptly appointed John 
Jay, then Secretary of State, a special envoy to Madrid, 
to conclude a commercial treaty, but instructed him 
not to relinquish, in any negotiation, the right of navi- 
gating the Mississippi from its source to the ocean. 
Jay did not at once set out on the mission, and, before 
he could sail, Don Diego Gardoqui arrived in this coun- 
try, with full authority from Spain to treat upon the 
subject. This allowed the negotiation to be conducted 
at home, under the very eye of Congress. 

Gardoqui presented his credentials on the 2d of July, 
1785, but before that time the pretensions of Sjoain 
were fully understood in the Western country, and the 
settlers had experienced the ejffects of her exclusive 
policy. Their produce was already a drug for want of a 
market. Pork and flour were selling at one dollar and a 
half per hundred, corn at ten cents a bushel, while tobac- 
co was rotting on the ground, with no buyers whatever. 
A majority of the settlers knew nothing of international 
law, and they stood in no awe of a power which to their 
eyes was represented by a few log huts at Natchez and 
St. Louis, and a mongrel population of less than five 
thousand near the mouth of the Mississippi.* They 

* The population of New Orleans in 1785 was 4,980; and that of the 
entire district of Louisiana, 31,433. About one half were negro slaves, 
the remainder French, Spaniards, and half-breeds. 


had, they thought, a natural right to navigate the water 
that flowed in front of their own doorways, and that 
right they should assert in defiance of Spain and Eastern 
diplomacy. This was the general feeling among the 
mass of the people ; and one Thomas Amis, more hold 
or more reckless than the rest, seems to have determined 
to put the Spanish pretensions to the test of experiment. 
He had produce which was needed by the Spaniards, and 
he was confident that a profitable trade could be opened 
with their settlements along the river. Accordingly, he 
freighted a flat-boat with flour and other merchandise, 
and set out on his way down the Mississippi. He en- 
countered no obstacle till he came abreast of the fort on 
the high bluffs of Natchez, but there he was unceremoni- 
ously brought to, his boat and cargo confiscated, and he, 
as a special act of mercy, released from arrest, and al- 
lowed to proceed afoot through the woods to Kentucky. 
The way was long, and several months elapsed be- 
fore Amis reached his home on the Ohio. Every- 
where he went he told his story, and everywhere he 
found sympathizing listeners. With the marvelous 
speed at which news travels in sections destitute of 
mail facilities, his tale spread over the whole Western 
country, arousing everywhere the most intense indigna- 
tion. And on the heels of it came tidings that Con- 
gress had concluded a treaty with Spain which would 
close the Mississippi for twenty-five years to Western 
commerce ! The report was not true ; but it was so near 

the truth as the fact that such a treaty had lacked 



only the vote of two States to secure its confirma- 

The Spanish envoy had opened the negotiation with 
Mr. Jay by the explicit declaration that his master, the 
king, would not consent that the United States or any 
foreign power should navigate the Mississippi below the 
thirty-first parallel. To this Mr. Jay had replied that 
" the adjacent country was fast filling with people, and 
that the time must soon come when they would not sub- 
mit to seeing a fine river flow before their doors without 
using it as a highway to the sea for the transportation of 
their productions " ; * and he represented the wisdom of 
forming such a treaty as would avoid all causes of future 
discord. To these appeals Gardoqui was deaf, for he 
had distinct instructions, and doubtless knew the secret 
intentions of his government. But, the navigation be- 
ing waived, he announced his readiness to form a com- 
mercial treaty that would be highly advantageous to the 
United States — would open Spanish ports to their com- 
merce, and bring in an unlimited amount of gold and 
silver in exchange for American productions. It was 
clear to Mr. Jay that such a treaty would vastly benefit 
the seaboard States, and improve the financial condition 
of the entire country. A large proportion of the evils it 
suffered were owing to a decayed and languishing com- 
merce, and these would be removed by the proposed 
treaty, which could be made at the mere cost of shutting 

* Pitkin's " History of the United States," 182a 


up for a few years a river that was practically useless to 
a sparsely-settled, agricultural people. 

Convinced at last that he could not move the Spanish 
envoy from his position, Jay, influenced by these views, 
went to Congress with a request that the resolution 
■which insisted upon the free navigation of the Missis- 
sippi should be rescinded, and he be allowed to conclude 
a treaty on the basis proposed by the Spaniards. In 
support of this request he urged that the navigation was 
not then important, and probably would not be for 
twenty-five or thirty years. A forbearance to use it was, 
therefore, no great hardship. The right could be ac- 
quired only by a war with Spain, in which, no doubt, 
France would join her ally. For such a war the country 
was not prepared. The operation of the treaty could be 
limited to twenty-five years, when the United States 
would be strong enough to assert its rights. In accord- 
ance with Jay's request, a resolution was submitted to 
Congress repealing the previous instructions, and author- 
izing him to conclude a treaty waiving the question of 
right of navigation for twenty years. In support of 
the resolution New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 
and the four New England States, voted unanimously ; 
the Southern States opposing it with equal unanimity. 
It failed to pass by only two votes. 

This occurred in secret session ; but the fact soon be- 
came publicly known, and the report of it reached the 
West in the exaggerated form that has been mentioned, 
creating wide-spread indignation. It served to increase 


tlie general dissatisfaction already existing against the 
Federal Government in consequence of the treaty of 
Hopewell, by which the United States had relinquished 
to the Indians a broad territory south of the French 
Broad River, and authorized them to forcibly remove 
some three thousand settlers from lands which had been 
acquired by fair purchase from the same Indians. '^By 
such meddling," it was said, *^the United States merely 
aggravates the evils of our position. We have a right to 
look to the General Government for protection from the 
savages, but it has increased their hostility ; and now it 
would inclose us with a Chinese wall — shut us out from 
the markets of the world, merely to swell the already 
plethoric pockets of the ruffle-shir ted gentry on the sea- 
board." This was the language now heard in every hut 
and every hamlet from the Watauga and Cumberland to 
the remotest district in Kentucky. Public meetings 
were everywhere held, strongly reprobating the proposed 
treaty, and denouncing it as *^ cruel, oppressive, and 
unjust." A document of the period gave voice to the 
general feeling as follows : " The prohibition of the 
navigation of the Mississippi has astonished the whole 
Western country." To sell us, and to make us vassals to 
the merciless Spaniards, is a grievance not to be 

The public excitement invaded even the General 
Assembly of Virginia, which promptly passed resolutions 
asserting that *^the common right of navigating the 
Mississippi is the bountiful gift of Nature to the United 


States" ; and ^Hhe Confederacy, having been formed on 
the broad basis of equal rights in every part thereof, and 
confided to the protection and guardianship of the whole, 
a sacrifice of the rights of any one part to the supposed 
or real interest of another part would be a flagrant vio- 
lation of Justice, and a direct contravention of the end 
for which the Federal Government was instituted, and 
an alarming innovation on the system of the Union." 
Any such action would provoke "the just resentment 
and reproaches of our Western brethren, whose essential 
rights and interests would be thereby sacrificed and 
sold," and it would tend "to undermine our repose, our 
prosperity, and our Union itself." 

Congress had failed to give any protection to the 
Western country ; North Carolina was acting in direct 
hostility to her border counties ; and, with all her friend- 
liness, Virginia, owing to distance, was unable to respond 
as promptly as the exigency often required to the reason- 
able demands of Kentucky. In these circumstances there 
had grown up a conviction with many leading men that 
both convenience and safety required that the West 
should assume an independent existence, either as a 
separate State or an independent Commonwealth. That 
this last was now openly avowed and discussed among 
them may be inferred from some expressions in a letter 
written about this time by the Attorney-General of Ken- 
tucky to the President of Congress. "I am decidedly 
of opinion," he writes, "that this Western country will 
in a few vears act for itself, and erect an 


goyernment ; for, under the present system, we can not 
exert our strength, neither does Congress seem disposed 
to protect us." Nothing more would appear to have 
been needed to lead the West to some such action than 
the disclosure which the vote on the Jay resolution had 
afforded of the feeling of the majority of Congress ; and 
no more favorable circumstances could be conceived of 
for an ambitious man, unscrupulous as to means, and 
unrestrained by love of his country, to put himself at 
the head of a movement to swing the West from the 
Union, and erect it into an independent republic. Un- 
fortunately, there was such a man among the settlers in 
Kentucky, and he now addressed himself to that object 
with consummate ability. To further the project, he 
encouraged Spain to persist in the occlusion of the Mis- 
sissippi ; and he thereby entailed upon the entire West 
long-continued suffering, and upon the devoted colony 
along the Cumberland ten more years of most sav- 
age warfare. It therefore becomes necessary to give 
some account of him and his machinations in this 

The influence of this man on Western affairs was so 
potent that, according to one of its historians, his arrival 
there constituted "an era in the history of Kentucky,"* 
but it was an " era " pregnant with peril to the West. 
His name was James Wilkinson, and for a month or two 
he had held the rank of brevet brigadier in the army of 

* Mann Butler, " History," p. 143. 


the Eevolution. From this fact he had come to be 
usually addressed as General Wilkinson. He made his 
first appearance in Kentucky in February, 1784, and 
establishing himself at Lexington, engaged at once in 
commercial operations. Humphrey Marshall, who was 
his near neighbor, and knew him intimately well, writes 
of him : *^ The presence, the manners, and conversation 
of this gentleman were calculated to attract attention, 
excite curiosity, and produce interest. ... He had been 
an officer in the regular army, was at the taking of Bur- 
goyne, and lately a member of the Pennsylvania Legis- 
lature. Besides these circumstances — so well adapted to 
prepossess the feelings, play upon the imaginations, and 
captivate the hearts of the simple and rustic Kentuckians 
— Nature herself had gratuitously furnished Wilkinson 
with a passport which insured his favorable reception 
wherever he was seen and heard — a passport expressed 
in a language which all manT^ind could read, whose in- 
fluence every one felt, and which none would suspect, or 
scrutinize on the first perusal. A person not tall enough 
to be perfectly elegant, was compensated by its symm.e- 
try, and appearance of health and strength ; a counte- 
nance open, mild, capacious, and beaming with intelli- 
gence ; a gait firm, manly, and facile ; manners bland, 
accommodating, and popular ; an address easy, polite, and 
gracious, invited approach, gave access, assured atten- 
tion, cordiality, and ease. By these fair forms he con- 
ciliated ; by these he captivated. The combined effect 
was greatly advantageous to the general, on a first 


acq^uaintance — which a further intercourse contributed 
to modify."* 

The distrust which is intimated in the last sentence 
njight have been more generally felt had Wilkinson's 
history been better known among the Kentuckians. He 
was a native of the little town of Benedict, in Mary- 
land, and at the age of eighteen had just completed 
his studies for the medical profession when tidings 
reached him of the battle of Bunker Hill. Without 
delay he abandoned his home, and, proceeding to the 
camp at Cambridge, Massachusetts, enlisted as a private 
in the army under Washington. On the remains of a 
slender patrimony he was able to indulge in a style of 
living not common to private soldiers, and this, with a 
plausible address and unbounded audacity, probably 
accounts for the fact that he was soon admitted to the 
tables of subordinate officers, and speedily contracted a 
close intimacy with Captain Aaron Burr and Colonel 
Benedict Arnold. In September, 1775, he obtained a 
captain's commission, and joined Arnold on his ill- 
starred expedition into Canada. Serving with credit 
in this campaign, he was advanced to the rank of 
major, and, in June, 1776, appointed to the staff of 
General Gates. He soon acquired the confidence of 
that officer, who in the following December made him 
the bearer of an important dispatch to General Charles 
Lee, then encamped near Morristown, New Jersey. Here 

* " History of Kentucky," by H. Marshall, vol. i, p. 165. 


he was the unobserved spectator of Lee's capture by a 
small party of British, who suddenly surrounded his 
quarters. He has graphically described this incident in 
his '^ Memoirs," according to which, with a pistol in each 
hand, he took up a position approachable by only one 
person at a time, determined to shoot down his first as- 
sailants, and to use his sword upon the remainder. His 
yalor, however, was not put to the test, for, Lee having 
surrendered at a second summons, the British rode away, 
leaving the smaller game unmolested. In Wilkinson's 
"Memoirs" he expresses the opinion that it was then 
Lee's intention to anticipate Washington in breaking the 
British lines between New York and the Delaware. Had 
Lee done this, he might have been elevated to the chief 
command — a calamity which, perhaps, the country es- 
caped in consequence of his capture. 

Kejoining Gates, Wilkinson was promoted to a colo- 
nelcy, and appointed adjutant-general. In this capacity 
he was at the battle of Bemis's Heights on September 
19, 1777, and in the more important engagement of 
October 7th. On the eve of the latter battle he had an 
opportunity to display the duplicity and treachery which 
were the distinguishing traits of his subsequent career. 
Under cover of darkness, Colonel John Hardin, of Ken- 
tucky, had penetrated into the British lines, and obtained 
an accurate idea of their strength and position. At im- 
minent risk to his life he regained the American out- 
posts, and there met Wilkinson, who was making the 
rounds with some boon companions. Aware of Wilkin- 


son's relation to Gates, Hardin confided to him his dis- 
coveries, and begged that he would at once make them 
known to the general. This Wilkinson did, suppressing 
Hardin's name, and making himself the hero of the mid- 
night adventure. He also embellished his narrative with 
sundry hand-to-hand encounters and hair-breadth es- 
capes, which Hardin had not experienced. The result 
was that, when Burgoyne had surrendered, Wilkinson's 
duplicity was rewarded by his being made bearer of the 
joyful tidings to Congress, with a recommendation from 
Gates to that body for his appointment as a brigadier- 
general.* Wilkinson was eighteen days on the way to 
Philadelphia, loitering at every convenient station to 
laud the greatness of Gates, and the important part he 
had himself played in the events which led to the sur- 
render ; so the news was a week old when he finally 
delivered his dispatches. 

Congress did not at first seem to appreciate the vast- 
ness of his services, or to be inclined to act on Gates's 
recommendation. Chafing under this neglect, Wilkin- 
son wrote to Gates : ^^I have not been honored with any 
mark of distinction from Congress. Indeed, should I 
receive no testimony of their approbation of my conduct 
I shall not be mortified. My hearty contemj^t of the 
world will shield me from such pitiful sensations." The 
world for which he' expressed so much contempt had 
been known to him for not more than twenty years, and 

* "The Impartial Review," Nashville, September 13, 1806. 


the conduct for which he expected approbation was, 
princiiDally, his fraudulent assumption of another man's 
services. After some days a proposal was introduced 
into Congress to present Wilkinson ^^^ a sword, where- 
upon Dr. Witherspoon, a shrewd Scot, dryly remarked, 
''I think ye'd better gi'e the lad a pair of spurs. ^"^ This 
defeated the resolution, but Congress, some weeks subse- 
quently, did appoint him a brigadier-general by brevet, 
and soon afterward. Secretary of the Board of War, of 
which Gates was a member. 

Wilkinson was at this time deep in the Conway cabal, 
which proposed to elevate Gates to the chief command of 
the army ; and the discovery of this conspiracy was due 
to his babbling the secret in a convivial hour to Lord 
Stirling. His remarks were at once communicated to 
Washington, who frankly repeated them to Gates and 
Conway, by whom the disclosures were met, at first with 
hesitating prevarication, and then with downright false- 
hood. The result was that Wilkinson was plunged over 
his depth into hot water. Adroit as he was, he could 
not explain his treachery to Gates, nor convince Wash- 
ington that he was not connected with the disreputable 
conspiracy. He challenged both Gates and Lord Stir- 
ling to duels ; but that did not remove the distrust with 
which he was now generally regarded. To add to his 
discomfort, forty-nine officers of the army petitioned 
Congress to rescind his appointment as brigadier ; and, 
to avoid that disgrace, he at once resigned his brevet 
rank of general. He retained his commission as colonel^, 


but was not again actively employed till toward the close 
of the war, when he served for a time as clothier-general 
of the army. 

The war over, Wilkinson sought a fresh field for his 
restless activity in Kentucky. The property he brought 
with him did not exceed three or four slaves, and a few 
hundred pounds in money, but on this slender capital he 
at once embarked in extensive commercial operations. 
" His bold and sanguine nature refused to be confined to 
small adventures. His local business was the smallest 
part of the large and laborious enterprises which he act- 
ively supervised. Before the winter of 1786 he had well- 
nigh engrossed the profitable trade in salt, and combined 
it with barters for otter and beaver skins that yielded in- 
creased gains. His agents were everywhere, and his un- 
tiring vigilance kept pace with all their movements and 
spurred their activity."* 

The fact was not long in disclosing itself to Wilkin- 
son that there was a speedy fortune before him if he 
could secure the exclusive right to trade with New Or- 
leans. He was satisfied that the Spaniards had other 
views than a paltry traffic in pork, flour, and tobacco. 
It was well known throughout the West that they 
armed and secretly incited the Creeks and Cherokees in 
their constant attacks ujDon Robertson, and the motive 
for their hostility was plain to a man of Wilkinson's pen- 

* " Centennial Address " of John Mason Brown, Frankfort, Ken- 


etration. He saw that they hoped to exterminate and 
drive off the settlers, or, at the least, to prevent their 
nearer approach to the Mississippi. This indicated their 
total ignorance of the growing strength and resources of 
the border people, who were ah^eady too strong to be ex- 
terminated. If the Spaniards could be convinced of this, 
might they not be induced to enter into commercial re- 
lations with them, and even to form an offensive and de- 
fensive alliance in case the trans- Alleghany region should 
erect itself into an independent republic ? It was of the 
growing power of the United States tha^ Spain was jeal- 
ous. In that she saw danger to her American posses- 
sions ; but she would have no such fear of a feeble re- 
public wedged in between the Mississippi and the Alle- 
ghanies. And yet, that feeble republic, guided by the 
genius of Wilkinson, would before many years be strong 
enough to dictate terms to the Spaniards, and, if need 
were, to drive them into the Gulf of Mexico. There is 
abundant evidence that these were the views of Wilkin- 
son when, in 1787, he had the interview with Robertson 
of which mention has been made in a previous chap- 

But at the outset Wilkinson probably contemplated 
only such personal relations with the Spaniards as would 
give him exclusive traffic upon the Mississippi. This he 
hoped to bring about by the bribery of the Spanish offi- 
cials, and by impressing them with so exalted an opinion 
of Western power that they would be convinced of the 
utter hopelessness of staying the progress of American 


emigration to the Mississippi. This was now (1786) Wil- 
kinson's object, and he set about its attainment with a 
shrewdness that would have been admirable had he been 
actuated by any but the most sordid personal motives. 
The ulterior project he might prosecute or abandon, as 
circumstances should render expedient. In view of the 
excited state of the Western mind, it is probable that he 
anticipated no serious opposition to it from the border 



Wilkinson made his attempt to capture the Spanish 
trade by gradual and systematic approaches. He first 
dispatched emissaries down the Mississippi to spread ex- 
aggerated reports of the strength of the border settle- 
ments, and of his own influence and importance ; and 
then, when time enough had passed to allow these re- 
ports to reach New Orleans, and become generally dif- 
fused, he followed them up, in the autumn of 1786, by a 
personal visit to Don Gayoso de Lamos, the Spanish 
commandant at Natchez. Wilkinson had reason to know 
that this gentleman was, in many respects, ^^a man after 
his own heart." He was vain and pompous, fond of 
luxury and the pleasures of the table, and also a wasteful 
spendthrift, overwhelmed with debt, constantly harassed 
for money, and entirely unscrupulous as to the means he 
took for its acquisition. But he was easy of access, and 
of a complaisant disposition ; and, as like attracts like, 
Wilkinson could reasonably count on making him a 


serviceable instrument in the promotion of his enter- 

The reports which Wilkinson had sent before him, 
represented that he was "a person of the first influence 
and consequence in Kentucky and the Western country, 
and that he could command at pleasure an army of ten 
or fifteen thousand citizens." Gayoso received him with 
all the consideration due to so potent a personage, and 
speedily ^^an understanding of the most intimate char- 
acter was established between them." This soon grew 
into a friendship which lasted many years, and was as 
sincere as any friendship can be between men totally 
lacking in sincerity. Some details of this interview are 
reported — among others that, in answer io Gayoso's in- 
quiries, Wilkinson gave him ''an account of the re- 
sources and population of Kentucky " (probably exagger- 
ated), ''and assured him that the inhabitants were in a 
state of the greatest discontent, bordering even upon in- 
surrection ; and that they would cheerfully accept the 
yoke of any foreign power which would aid them in a 
separation from the Union." As he was in duty bound, 
Gayoso transmitted these statements to his superior, 
Don Miro, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana. This 
was the result at which Wilkinson had aimed ; and he 
returned to Kentucky feeling that the first step in his 
great enterprise had been successfully taken. The gain 
to Gayoso from this visit was "a pair of the most beau- 
tiful bay geldings, that Wilkinson bought, for the ex- 
press purpose, of Colonel Bannister, at Petersburg, Vir- 


ginia, wliich were the next spring forwarded to the 
Spaniard."* It was this pair of geldings that opened 
the Mississippi River to American commerce. 

The ferment in Kentucky continued, and was act- 
ively encouraged by Wilkinson, who soon became a most 
energetic declaimer against the supineness of the Gen- 
eral Government, and the injustice that the East was 
ready to inflict upon the West by the Jay treaty. But 
he was not diverted from his great project of open- 
ing a trade with the Spaniards. His was a versatile 
genius. He could simultaneously pursue half a dozen 
different objects, and make them all subserve and pro- 
mote one another. To convey his produce past the gnns 
of Natchez, he had expended a pair of thoroughbreds, 
and now he decided to risk a larger sum — of his own or 
some one else's money — in an attempt to open the gates 
of New Orleans to his commerce. Accordingly, he 
loaded a flat-boat with Kentucky produce, and set it 
afloat down the Mississippi, while he himself followed 
by the overland route to New Orleans. 

As Wilkinson expected, Don Gayoso allowed his flat- 
boat an unmolested passage under the guns of Natchez ; 
but it was unceremoniously seized at New Orleans by 
Don Navarro, the Spanish Intendant. Wilkinson had 
not yet arrived, and notwithstanding the reports so in- 
dustriously circulated by his emissaries, the Spanish gen- 

* The foregoing statements and quotations are from an article in 
*'The Impartial Review," of August 30, 1806. 


tleman had never heard of the great American general, 
nor of his fifteen thousand indomitable Kentucky rifle- 
men. He was about to sell the cargo, and apply the 
proceeds toward the enormous deficiency which Spain 
every year discovered in the finances of the colony, when, 
fortunately for Wilkinson, the transaction came to the 
ears of a prominent Saerchant, who at once reported the 
facts to Don Miro, the Spanish Governor. What fol- 
lowed can best be told in some extracts from a report 
made by this merchant — Daniel Clark — to the Hon. 
Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State, a few years 
later, under President Washington. 

*^ About the middle of the year 1787," he says, ^'the 
foundation of an intercourse with Kentucky and the 
settlements on the Ohio was laid, which daily increases. 
Previous to that time, all those who ventured on the 
Mississippi had their property seized by the first com- 
manding officer whom they met, and little or no com- 
munication was kept up between the countries. . . . An 
unexpected incident, however, changed the face of things, 
and was productive of a new line of conduct : the arrival 
of a boat belonging to General Wilkinson, loaded with 
tobacco and other productions of Kentucky, was an- 
nounced in town, and a guard was immediately sent on 
board of it. The general's name had hindered this being 
done at Natchez, as the commandant was fearful that 
such a step might be displeasing to his superiors, who 
might wish to show some respect to a general officer — at 
any rate, the boat was proceeding to Orleans, and they 


could there resolve on what measures they ought to pur- 
sue, and put them in execution. The government not 
much disposed to show any mark of respect or forbear- 
ance toward the general's property, he not having at that 
time arrived, was about proceeding in tlie usual way of 
confiscation, when a merchant in Orleans" (Clark him- 
self), *'who had considerable influence there, and who 
was formerly acquainted with the general, represented to 
the Governor that the measures taken by the intendant 
would very probably give rise to disagreeable events : 
that the people of Kentucky were already exasperated at 
the conduct of the Spaniards in seizing on the property 
of all those who navigated the Mississippi, and if this 
system was persisted in, would, very probably, in spite of 
Congress and the Executive of the United States, take 
upon themselves to obtain the navigation of the river by 
force, which they were able to do ; a measure for some 
time dreaded by this government, which had no force to 
resist them, if such a plan was put in execution. Hints 
were likewise given that Wilkinson was a A^ery popular 
man,, who could influence the whole of that country; 
and probably that his sending a boat before him with a 
wish that she might be seized, was but a snare laid for 
the government, that he might have an opportunity at 
his return to inflame the minds of the people, and hav- 
ing brought them to the point he wished, induce them 
to appoint him their leader, and then, like a torrent, 
spread over the country and carry fire and desolation 
from one end of the province to the other. Governor 


Miro, unacquainted with the American government, 
ignorant even of the position of Kentucky with respect 
to his own province, but alarmed at the very idea of an 
irruption of Kentucky men whom he feared without 
knowing their strength, communicated his wishes to the 
intendant, that the guard might be removed from the 
boat, which was accordingly done ; and a Mr. Patterson, 
who was the agent of the general, was permitted to take 
charge of the property on board, and sell it free of duty. 
" The general, on his arrival in New Orleans some time 
after, informed of the obligation he lay under to the 
merchant who had impressed the Governor with such an 
idea of his importance and influence at home, waited on 
him, and in concert with him formed a plan for their 
future operations. In his interview with the Governor, 
that he might not seem to derogate from the character 
given of him by appearing concerned in so trifling a 
business as a boat-load of tobacco, hams, and butter, he 
gave him to understand that the property belonged to 
many citizens of Kentucky, who, availing themselves of 
his return to the Atlantic States by way of Orleans, 
wished to make a trial of the temper of this government, 
that he on his arrival might inform his owners what 
steps had been pursued under his eye, that adequate 
measures might be afterward taken to procure satisfac- 
tion. He acknowledged with gratitude the attention 
and respect manifested by the Governor toward himself 
in the favor shown to his agent ; but at the same time 
mentioned that he would not wish the Governor to ex- 


pose himself to the anger of the court, by refraining 
from seizing on the boat and cargo (as it was but a 
trifle), if such were the positive orders from court ; and 
he had not a power to relax them according to circum- 

" Convinced by this discourse that the general rather 
wished for an opportunity of embroiling affairs, than 
sought to avoid it, the Governor became more alarmed. 
For two or three years before, and particularly since the 
arrival of the commissioners from Gjeorgia, who had come 
to Natchez to claim that country, he had been fearful of 
an invasion at every annual rise of the waters, and the 
news of a few boats being seen on the Ohio was enough 
to alarm the whole province. He resolved in his mind 
what measures he ought to pursue (consistent with the 
orders he had from home not to permit the free naviga- 
tion of the river), in order to keep the people of Ken- 
tucky quiet ; and in his succeeding interviews with Wil- 
kinson, having procured more knowledge than he had 
hitherto acquired of their character, population, strength, 
and dispositions, he thought he could do nothing better 
than hold out a bait to Wilkinson to use his influence in 
restraining the people from an invasion of this province, 
till he could give advice to his court, and require further 
instructions. This was the point to which the parties 
wished to bring him, and being informed that in Ken- 
tucky two or three crops were on hand, for which, if an 
immediate vent was not found, the people would not 
keep within bounds, he made Wilkinson the offer of a 


permission to import on his own account to New Or- 
leans, free of duty, all the productions of Kentucky, 
thinking by this means to conciliate the good-will of the 
people, without yielding the point of navigation : as the 
commerce carried on would appear the effect of an indul- 
gence to an individual, which could be withdrawn at 

" On consultation with his friends, who well knew 
what further concessions Wilkinson could extort from 
the fear of the Spaniards, by the promise of his good 
offices in preaching peace, harmony, and good under- 
standing with this government, until arrangements were 
made between Spain and America, he was advised to in- 
sist that the Governor should insure him a market for 
all the flour and tobacco he miglit send, as in the event of 
an unfortunate shipment he would be ruined, while en- 
deavoring to do a service to Louisiana. This was ac- 
cepted ; flour was wanted in Orleans, and the King of 
Spain had given orders to purchase more tobacco for 
the supply of his manufactory at home than Louisiana at 
that time produced, and which was paid for at about 
nine and a half dollars j)er hundred-weight. In Ken- 
tucky it cost but two, and the profits were immense. 
In consequence, the general appointed his friend Daniel 
Clark his agent here, and returned by way of Charles- 

* The foregoing is copied from the notes to Clark's book upon Wil- 
kinson, pp. 6-9. The paper as given in Wilkinson's " Memoirs," differs 
from it in some few particulars. 


Several other interviews ensued, and Wilkinson was 
most hospitably entertained by Governor Miro, who be- 
came every day more friendly and condescending. He 
remained in New Orleans during all of the months of 
June, July, and August, and until far into September, 
and his relations with the Governor and with Navarro 
soon became so intimate as to give rise to **sly hints and 
insinuations " as to their nature and tendency. During 
this period, says Mann Butler, in his *^ History of Ken- 
tucky," at the Governor's request, he gave to him, for 
the information of the Spanish ministry, a memorial "in 
writing, respecting the political interests of Spain and 
the inhabitants of the United States dwelling in the re-, 
gions upon the Western waters. This he did at length, 
in a document of fifteen or twenty pages, which the Gov- 
ernor transmitted to Madrid, to be laid before the King 
of Spain. In this document he urges the natural right 
of the Western people to follow the current of the rivers 
flowing through their country to the sea. He states the 
extent of the country, the richness of the soil, abounding 
in choice productions, proper for foreign markets, to 
which they have no means of conveying them should the 
Mississippi be shut against them. He sets forth the ad- 
vantages which Spain might derive from allowing them 
the free use of the river. He proceeds to show the rapid 
increase of population in the Western country, and the 
eagerness with which every individual looked forward to 
the navigation of that river. He describes the general 
abhorrence with which they received the intelligence 


that Congress was about to sacrifice their dearest interest, 
by ceding to Spain for twenty years, the navigation of 
the Mississippi ; and represents it as a fact that they are 
on the point of separating themselves entirely from the 
Union, on that account. He addresses himself to the 
Governor's fears by an ominous display of their strength, 
and argues the impolicy of Spain in being so blind to her 
own interest as to refuse them an amicable participation 
in the navigation of the river, thereby forcing them into 
violent measures. He assures the Spanish Governor that, 
in case of such alternative, * Great Britain stands ready, 
with expanded arms, to receive them,' and to assist their 
efforts to accomplish that object, and quotes a conversa- 
tion with a member of the British Parliament to that 
effect. He states the facility with which the province of 
Louisiana might be invaded by the united forces of the 
English and the Americans, the former advancing from 
Canada by the way of the Illinois Eiver, and the latter 
by the way of the Ohio Eiver ; also the practicability of 
proceeding from Louisiana to Mexico, in a march of 
twenty days ; that in case of such invasion. Great Britain 
will aim at the possession of Louisiana and New Orleans, 
and leave the navigation of the river free to the Ameri- 
cans. He urges forcibly the danger to the Spanish inter- 
ests in North America, with Great Britain in possession 
of the Mississippi ; as she was already in possession of 
the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. He concludes 
with an apology for the freedom with which he had ex- 
pressed his views by the Governor's particular request ; 


but such as they are, they are from a man whose head 
may err, hut whose heart can not deceive.''^ 

The average commercial conscience may not be very 
much shocked by the tortuous diplomacy to which Wil- 
kinson confessedly resorted to open the Mississippi to his 
commerce ; but it is scarcely a reasonable supposition 
that he remained in that pestilential town during the 
three most sultry and unhealthy months of the year, 
solely to write the foregoing memorial, sell a small cargo 
of produce, and form a commercial connection with the 
merchant, Daniel Clark. Nor can a high-born Castilian 
gentleman, like Don Miro, be suspected of lavishing at- 
tentions upon a mere trader in Western produce, unless 
said trader had wares to sell which he deemed of more 
consequence than ^Miams, butter, and tobacco." A 
dense mystery overhung this whole transaction for all of 
fifty years, and until the curtain was lifted from it by 
the Spanish Government consenting to the examination 
of Wilkinson's correspondence and Miro's dispatches. 
Then it was discovered that this native-born American, 
only recently in the official service of his country, and 
soon to be elevated to the chief command of her armies, 
had, during those unhealthy months, bargained to barter ' 
away the district of Kentucky, and indeed the whole 
territory as far east as the Alleghanies, for a mess of 
Spanish pottage. Miro's correspondence clearly reveals 
the fact that Wilkinson addressed a memorial to the 
Spanish Government — in addition to the one already 
quoted — which has not even yet been published. Its 


character, however, may be readily gathered from some 
expressions of Miro's in a dispatch to the Spanish min- 
ister of date January 8, 1788. He therein alludes to 
*^ Wilkinson's great project" as a crime for which he is 
liable to be '-'arrested," and reminds the minister that in 
Wilkinson's memorial he expresses himself as conscious 
that he has put at stake his "life and honor." In the 
same dispatch Miro adds : *' The delivering up of Ken- 
tucky into his Majesty's hands, which is the main object 
to which Wilkinson has promised to devote himself en- 
tirely, would forever constitute this province a rampart 
for the protection of New Spain."* 

Of this opinion also was Navarro, the Intendant of 
New Orleans, who had been brought into the conferences 
between Miro and Wilkinson. In an official dispatch, 
which about this time he addressed to the Spanish min- 
ister, to be submitted to his king, he '* depicted in vivid 
colors the dangers which Spain had to apprehend for her 
American colonies, from the thirteen provinces which 
had lately become independent, and assumed their rank 
among the nations of the earth. He dwelt with peculiar 
emphasis on the ambition and thirst of conquest which 
his keen eye could already detect in the breast of the 

* Most of these dispatches, if not all, were originally in cipher, and 
are now to be found in the archives of Spain. By consent of the Span- 
ish Government, copies of them have been made for the State of Louisi- 
ana, which copies are now deposited in the oflSce of the Secretary of State 
at Baton Rouge. The quotations herein are from various extracts printed 
in Gayarre's "Spanish Domination in Louisiana." 


new-born giant, who, as he predicted with remarkable 
accuracy, would not rest satisfied until he had extended 
his domains across the continent, and bathed his vigor- 
ous young limbs in the placid waters of the Pacific. 
And how was this dread event, so clearly foreseen, to be 
prevented ? By severing the Union — dividing the At- 
lantic States from the boundless West, where so much 
power was already slumbering in the lap of the wilder- 
ness. To effect this was not, in his opinion, very diffi- 
cult, if the propitious circumstances, then existing, were 
turned to advantage without loss of time, and by the use 
of proper means. "Grant," he said, ^^ every sort of com- 
mercial privileges to the masses of the Western region, 
and shower pensions and honors on their leaders." 

To this showering of '* pensions and honors on the 
leaders " Miro was agreed ; but he advised his govern- 
ment that commercial '' privileges should be granted to 
only a few individuals having influence among them as is 
suggested in Wilkinson's [secret] memorial, because, on 
their seeing the advantages bestowed on these few, they 
might be easily persuaded to acquire the like by becom- 
ing Spanish subjects." 

It is evident, from his correspondence, that Miro was 
confident he was now about to perform an important 
service to his country — remove from it a great danger, 
and annex to it a vast territory, with a rapidly increasing 
population already outnumbering that of Louisiana more 
than two to one. This expectation must have given him 
no ordinary gratification, for, after a large expenditure 


of money and ammunition, the treaty with McGillivray 
had borne no fruit to the advantage of Spain. The 
Creek chief had not dared to so much as move against 
Sevier, and the feeble Eobertson was even stronger than 
when his extermination was first resolved upon. The 
Northern Indians also had not given the expected aid 
to the Spanish designs. They had, no doubt, amused 
McGillivray with fair speeches ; but since 1784 they had 
engaged in no considerable raid upon the Kentucky set- 
tlers. Meanwhile, the Western settlements had more 
than trebled in numbers, and it was idle to think of 
their extermination. Some other mode must therefore 
be adopted to prevent their becoming dangerous to the 
Spanish possessions, and this mode was now indicated by 
a man who had the ability to carry the plan into execu- 
tion. All that now seemed necessary was to *^ shower 
pensions and honors" upon the Western leaders. We 
may smile at what we deem the infatuation of the Span- 
ish Governor, and think that the Western people were 
too loyal to be so readily led out of the Union ; but 
the fact soon appeared that the general distress resulting 
from the occlusion of the Mississippi would render it an 
easy task for a few able men to accomplish that object. 

The dispatches of Miro and Navarro, and the two 
memorials of Wilkinson, made a deep impression at Mad- 
rid, and led to the speedy adoption by the Spanish Gov- 
ernment of a policy that looked to the severing of the 
West from the East. This policy was persisted in for 
ten years, solely because it was encouraged by the trea- 


sonable action of Wilkinson. On him, therefore, rests 
the responsibility for the disquiet and positive suffering 
it inflicted upon the entire West, and for the havoc and 
bloodshed it entailed upon the devoted colony along the 
Cumberland. It has been questioned '^whether Wilkin- 
son went further than to deceive the Spanish authorities 
with a pretended disloyal intent toward his own govern- 
ment. He exaggerated," it has been said, ^Hiis own im- 
portance and influence, and promised much to the Span- 
iard which he could never have joerformed, and scarce 
thought of performing. And he did so purposely, that 
he might exact the money which his extravagance re- 
quired. He kept no promise made to the Spanish in- 
tendant, but regularly received the king's money."* In 
other words, he was a traitor to both the Spaniards and 
his own countrymen. In either view of his conduct it 
was alike infamous, and attended with the same disas- 
trous results. 

It is no doubt true that Wilkinson had no idea or in- 
tention, from the very first, of converting the West into 
a Spanish province. So far he deceived Miro. But he 
was scarcely back in Kentucky before he notified the 
Spanish Governor that Kentucky must be made a repub- 
lic, allied to Spain, but nominally independent. This 
he knew would equally as well serve the Spanish pur- 
pose, which was to weaken the Union. Moreover, it 
would avert from Spain the jealousy of foreign powers. 

* John Mason BroTvn, " Centennial Address." 


In these views Miro coincided, and lie so expressed him- 
self in his dispatches to his Government. This end 
Wilkinson sought with every appearance of sincerity; 
and it was the one that would best promote his own 
interest ; for he could count upon being himself the 
head of the new State, and thus at once gratifying 
his two strongest passions — love of ^f elf and power. His 
government once firmly established, Spain might have 
found him an unruly dependant. The man was governed 
solely by self-interest, and, once in possession of the 
requisite power, he might have thought that his interest 
would be subserved by the Spaniards evacuating New Or- 
leans, and allowing him a theatre for the magnificent 
Southwestern empire which, it is no great stretch of 
credulity to believe, he himself suggested to Aaron Burr, 
eighteen years later. But I do not propose here to either 
accuse or defend General Wilkinson. It concerns my 
subject, however, to record some of his words and actions, 
and the result can not be avoided if from these an un- 
favorable estimate should be formed of his character. 

He embarked at New Orleans for Philadelphia, on his 
return to Kentucky, in September, 1787, bearing with 
him an official permit from Governor Miro, which al- 
lowed him to introduce Western produce in his boats into 
Spanish territory free of duty. With the end revealed 
by his correspondence distinctly in view, he now set 
about its attainment with consummate ability. He ap- 
pears to have been for some time detained in Philadel- 
phia, for he did not reach Kentucky until February, 


1788 ; but, prior to his arrival there, he instructed his 
business partner — a Major Dunn — to buy up produce in 
every corner of Kentucky. This Dunn at once pro- 
ceeded to do, everywhere proclaiming the important con- 
cession which Wilkinson had obtained from the Spanish 
authorities. Of this concession, it was announced, every 
man could avail himself by selling his produce to Wil- 
kinson, or by paying him for its freightage down the 

These were grateful tidings to planters who had not a 
current coin in their pockets, and whose products were 
rotting on the ground because they would not sell for 
enough to pay the cost of harvesting. To bring about 
this access to the New Orleans market, the settlers had, 
time and again, memorialized Congress and the State 
Legislature, and the only result they had seen was the 
abortive Jay treaty. They now saw that, what the Fed- 
eral Government could not do, Wilkinson had effected 
by personal negotiation. Some sagacious men shook 
their heads, and said that the transaction had about it an 
odor of corruption — that Wilkinson had obtained his 
trading concession by bribing the Spanish officials. But 
the majority of planters, like other men, are not saga- 
cious ; or if they are, they are seldom so scrupulous as to 
inquire how the money is come by which buys their ba- 
con and tobacco. It is certain that the Kentuckians did 
not ask this question about Wilkinson, for he leaped at 
once into almost unbounded popularity. And, as he 
rose in public estimation, the General Government fell. 


**"What sort of a Congress is this," men every where 
asked, "which can not do what is done by a private in- 
dividual ? " 

This was the state of public feeling when Wilkin- 
son crossed the Alleghanies, and in a chariot drawn by 
four horses, and attended by a retinue of colored out- 
riders, entered Lexington, Kentucky. At any other 
time these unostentatious people might have been dis- 
gusted with this affected display, but now they saw in it 
only what was appropriate to one who had achieved a 
great triumph in diplomacy. Everywhere they flocked 
about him, and everywhere Wilkinson was received with 
distinguished honors. The universal adulation seems to 
have well-nigh turned his head, for, before he had been 
in Kentucky long enough to broach his project to any 
but a few intimate friends, he dispatched a pirogue in 
charge of a couple of boatmen, to Miro, with this mes- 
sage in cipher : "All my predictions are verifying them- 
selves, and not a measure is taken on both sides of the 
mountains which does not conspire to favor ours." 

The "measures" to which Wilkinson alludes were 
those which were being taken for the separation of Ken- 
tucky from Virginia, and the admission of the district as 
a State into the Union. Several conventions had been 
held to consider the subject, and the last one had voted 
a petition to the mother-State for a separation. To this 
Virginia had now agreed, with the proviso that Con- 
gress should first consent to receive Kentucky as one 
of the United States. The Kentuckians had forwarded 


a petition to this effect to Congress, and had called a 
convention to meet on the 28th of the ensuing July, to 
form a Constitution for the new State. 

What followed can best be told in Wilkinson's lan- 
guage to Miro and Navarro. With his accustomed en- 
ergy he had laden a fleet of flat-boats with produce, and 
on the 15th of May, 1788 — only three months after his 
return to Kentucky — he had dispatched them, in charge 
of Major Dunn, down the Mississippi. By this gentle- 
man he forwarded a cipher dispatch to the Spanish Gov- 
ernor and Intendant, a portion of which was as follows : 

*^ On the first day of January of the next year, 1789, 
by mutual consent, this district will cease to be subjected 
to the jurisdiction of Virginia. It has been stipulated, 
it is true, as a necessary condition of our independence, 
that this territory be acknowledged an independent State 
by Congress, and be admitted as such into the Federal 
Union. But a convention has already been called to 
form the Constitution of this section of the country, and 
I am persuaded that no action on the part of Congress 
will ever induce this people to abandon the plan which 
they have adopted, although I have recent intelligence 
that Congress will, beyond a doubt, recognize us a sov- 
ereign State. . . . 

*' The convention of which I have spoken will meet 
in July. I will, in the mean time, inquire into the pre- 
vailing opinions, and shall be able to ascertain the extent 
of the influence of the members elected. When this is 
done, after having previously come to an understanding 


•with two or three individuals capable of assisting me, I 
shall disclose so much of our great scheme as may appear 
opportune, according to circumstances, and I have no 
doubt but that it will meet with a favorable reception ; 
because, although I have been communicative with no 
more than two individuals, I have sounded many, and, 
wherever it has seemed expedient to me to make known 
your answer to my memorial, it has caused the keen- 
est satisfaction. Colonel Alexander Leatt Bullitt, and 
Harry Innis, our attorney-general, are the only indi- 
viduals to whom I have intrusted our views, and, in 
case of any mishap befalling me before their accom- 
plishment, you may, in perfect security, address your- 
selves to these gentlemen, whose political designs agree 
entirely with yours. Thus, as soon as the new govern- 
ment shall be organized and adopted by the people, they 
will proceed to elect a Governor, the members of the leg- 
islative body and other officers, and I doubt not but they 
will name a political agent with power to treat of the 
affair in which we are engaged, and I think all this will 
be done by the month of March next. In the mean 
time I hope to receive your orders, which I will do my 
utmost to execute. . . . 

'^I do not anticipate any obstacle from Congress, 
because, under the present federal compact, that body 
can neither dispose of men nor money, and the new 
government, should it establish itself, will have to en- 
counter difficulties which will keep it weak for three 
or four years, before the expiration of which I have 


good grounds to hope that we shall have completed our 
negotiations, and shall have become too strong to be 
subjected by any force which may be sent against us." 

A copy of this letter, forwarded by Major Dunn, 
Miro dispatched to the Spanish minister at Madrid on 
the 15th of June, with these observations : '^^This major 
confirms all of Wilkinson's assertions, and gives it out 
as certain that, next year, after the meeting of the first 
assemblies in which Kentucky will act as an independ- 
ent State, she will separate entirely from the Federal 
Union ; he further declares that he has come to this 
conclusion from having heard it expressed in various 
conversations among the most distinguished citizens of 
that State ; that the direction of the current of the 
rivers which run in front of their dwellings, points 
clearly to the power to which they ought to ally them- 
selves. " 

Wilkinson now addressed himself to his great task 
with his accustomed energy. How he went about it, 
he explains in a subsequent dispatch to Governor Miro. 
In it he says : "Immediately after having sent you my 
dispatch by Major Dunn, I devoted all my faculties to 
our political designs, and I have never since turned 
aside from the pursuit of the important object we have 
in view. If subsequent events have not come up to 
our expectations, still I conceive that they are such as 
to inspire us with flattering hojoes of success in due 
time ; and, although in the conjectural opinions which I 
have presented to you and Navarro, I may in some par- 


ticulars have been deceived, you will yet see that, in 
the main, I expressed myself with a prophetic spirit, 
and that important events have occurred to confirm 
the accuracy of my sentiments. 

"When Major Dunn left Kentucky, I had opened 
myself only to the Attorney-General Innis and to 
Colonel Bullitt, who favor our designs, and indirectly I 
had sounded others, whom I also found well disposed 
to adopt my ideas. But having made a more strict ex- 
amination, I discovered that the proposed new Govern- 
ment of the United States had inspired some with ap- 
prehensions, and others with hopes — so much so, that 
I saw that this circumstance would be a cause of some 
opposition and delay. I also perceived that all idea 
that Kentucky would subject itself to Spain must be 
abandoned for the present, and that the only feasible 
plan to the execution of which I had to direct my at- 
tention was that of a separation from the United States, 
and an alliance with Spain, on conditions which could 
not yet be defined with precision. I considered that, 
whatever be the time when the separation should be 
brought about, this district being then no longer under 
the protection of the United States, Spain might dictate 
her own terms ; for which reason I embraced without 
delay this last alternative. 

" The question of separation from the United States, 
although discussed with vehemence among the most dis- 
tinguished inhabitants of this section of the country, had 
never been mentioned, in a formal manner, to the people 


at large ; but now was the time for making this impor- 
tant acd interesting experiment, and it became my indis- 
pensable mission to do so. I had to work on a ground 
not yet prepared for the seed to be deposited in it, and I 
felt that, to produce a favorable impression, I had to 
proceed with reserve, and avoid with the utmost care 
any demonstration which might be calculated to cause 
surprise or alarm. For these motives, I gave an equivo- 
cal shape to the expression of my design, speaking of it 
in general terms, as being recommended by eminent poli- 
ticians of the Atlantic coast, with whom I had conversed 
on this affair, and thus by indirect suggestions and argu- 
ments I inspired the people with my own views, without 
presenting them as such, because it would have been im- 
prudent in me to divulge them under the existing cir- 
cumstances, and I can give you the solemn assurance, 
that I found all the men belonging to the first class of 
society in the district, with the exception of Colonel 
Marshall, our surveyor, and Colonel Muter, one of our 
judges, decidedly in favor of separation from the United 
States, and of an alliance with Spain. At first, these 
two men had expressed this same opinion with warmth, 
but now their feelings have taken a different direction 
from private motives of interest and personal pique, for 
which reasons I have very little to dread from their in- 
fluence ; but, at the same time, I foresaw that they would 
avail themselves of the opposition made by some liter- 
ary demagogues, who were under the influence of fear 
and prejudice. Nevertheless, I determined to lay the 


question before our convention, and I took the necessary 
measures accordingly." He goes on to say that he had 
been obliged to expend five thousand dollars in further- 
ance of the great project, and that an additional ex- 
penditure of twenty-five hundred dollars would convert 
Marshall and Muter to his way of thinking ; but, unfor- 
tunately, he had not the money. Miro at once recom- 
mended to the Spanish minister that these two sums 
should be paid to AVilkinson. 

There is good evidence that some of this money was 
used by Wilkinson in corrupting his associates, and it is 
clear that he did not ^^ proceed with reserve" in ap- 
proaching some of the leading men of Kentucky. To 
at least half a dozen he must have opened his plans in all 
their fullness. In this, as in all extensive conspiracies, 
there was an inner and an outer ring : a central group to 
whom was disclosed the whole design, and who bargained 
for and received pensions and emoluments from Spain ; 
and an outer circle, ignorant of the entire plot, and con- 
tent with the crumbs that were to fall from the Spanish 
table — namely, the free navigation of the Mississippi. 
This outer circle was, no doubt, mainly composed of 
honest men, who contemplated nothing more than a 
commercial connection with Spain ; but they were nu- 
merous enough to warrant Wilkinson's expectation that, 
through their votes, he could control the approaching 
convention. Consequently, he looked confidently for- 
ward to that convention to erect Kentucky into an inde- 
pendent Commonwealth. 


It is singular that, in all his treasonable corre- 
spondence, Wilkinson does not once make mention of 
Isaac Shelby. Shelby was, at this period, by far the 
most popular man in Kentucky. He had been employed 
at surveying in the district as early as 1776, and he then 
selected a location in the vicinity of Boonesborough, 
which, when subsequently granted to him, was the first 
preemption in Kentucky. The war over, and his busi- 
ness as commissioner for laying out the Cumberland 
lands completed, he returned to Boonesborough, and 
marrying a daughter of Nathaniel Hart, the associate of 
Henderson in the purchase of Kentucky from the Chero- 
kees, he settled upon this tract as a planter. There he 
lived for more than half of man's allotted term of life, 
and there he died, full of age and of honor. 

The district had been largely settled by Eevolution- 
ary soldiers, and at this time, and for years afterward, 
they formed the bulk of its population. They retained 
their Revolutionary traditions, and still looked to their 
old officers as their natural leaders. Among all these 
officers, none was held in such general esteem as Shelby. 
It was universally known that he had decided the battle 
of Point Pleasant, which had made possible the settle- 
ment of Kentucky, and that to him and John Sevier 
belonged the glory of having turned the tide of the Rev- 
olution at King's Mountain. But, aside from these con- 
siderations, Shelby had great weight with the people be- 
cause of his unswerving uprightness, his clear and solid 
judgment, and his elevated patriotism, which no personal 


motive had ever seduced from a single pursuit of the good 
of his country. He was not a brilliant man, able, like Se- 
vier, to sway a whole people by his personal magnetism. 
He was more nearly Oarlyle's ideal of the man of power 
— silent, reticent, and seldom speaking, except in short, 
crisp sentences which expressed his exact ideas, with 
never a shade of disguise or circumlocution. From early 
manhood he had fought, not for any one section, but for 
the whole country, and the wiiole country had, in his 
mind, a future boundary as far west as the sun's setting. 
In appearance, manner, and character, he was the exact 
opposite of Wilkinson. Thorough patriot as he was, he 
might be an important obstacle to its success should he 
become acquainted with the treasonable conspiracy. The 
Sevier and Shelby papers were burned during the Union 
occupation of Knoxville ; but Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, in 
whose possession they were, and who was familiar with 
their contents, assured me that they contained nothing 
to indicate that Wilkinson had in any manner approached 
Shelby. It is certain that Shelby was in ignorance of the 
conspiracy till within a few weeks of its intended execution. 
Thus affairs stood — the deep-scheming traitor sure of 
his end, and the sleeping country ignorant of the mine 
that was about to explode beneath it — when one of those 
trifling incidents occurred which so often turn the course 
of history. Sevier at this time, as I have elsewhere re- 
lated,* was struggling at desperate odds to defend the 

* " Jobu Sevier, as a Commonwealth-Builder," pp. 158-196. 


settlers south of the French Broad against the combined 
Creek and Cherokee nations. These settlers numbered 
about three thousand, and they had located on their 
lands under grants and promises of protection from 
North Carolina. But the Indian title had not been ex- 
tinguished, and one of Sevier's first acts as Governor of 
Franklin had been to conclude a treaty with the Chero- 
kees, by which they ceded these lands to the new State, 
and thus gave the settlers peaceable possession. In doing 
this, Sevier assumed the treaty-making power, but that 
was no more than had been done by nearly every one of 
the States, even when they were colonies. His action 
was brought to the notice of Congress, and that body 
feeling its sovereignty invaded, and jealous of its rights 
— as most weak bodies are — proceeded to make with the 
Cherokees the treaty of Hopewell, by which Sevier's 
treaty was ignored, all lands south of the French Broad 
and Holston were relinquished, and the settlers declared 
to be intruders upon Cherokee territory. North Caro- 
lina followed up the treaty by a proclamation ordering 
the settlers to remove at once from their homes. But 
for nearly three years both proclamation and treaty were 
dead letters ; for John Sevier was at the head of the 
border militia, and his name was a terror to the Chero- 

But the State of Franklin was no sooner dissolved, 
and Sevier a proscribed and outlawed man, than the ten 
thousand allied Creeks and Cherokees went upon the war- 
path, and in overwhelming numbers moved down upon 


the feeble settlements. Sevier went at once to their res- 
cue, and he was there now with only about nine hundred 
men, struggling to hold his ground against not far from 
ten thousand. Proscribed, outlawed, and cut off from 
supplies, as he was, what could he do to either promote 
or retard Wilkinson's treasonable project ? To all ap- 
pearance, nothing ; and yet, the Spanish minister, Gar- 
doqui — who had now taken an active hand in furthering 
the plot — deemed him of sufficient consequence to be 
approached with friendly overtures. He commissioned 
one Dr. James White, who, though a member of the 
American Congress, w^as not unwilling to soil his hands 
with Spanish gold, to visit Sevier, and assure him that if 
he and the Watauga people desired to ally themselves 
with Spain, and would favor her interests, they should 
be protected in any. form of civil and political govern- 
ment that was most agreeable to them. Sevier had very 
much the same feeling for the Spaniards as Robertson, 
but he was never known to treat his worst enemy with 
discourtesy. With his accustomed urbanity he received 
this Spanish emissary, and w^ith even more than his ac- 
customed frankness told him that he was in a desper- 
ate strait ; that while he had not ten rounds of am- 
munition to a man, he was in hourly expectation of an 
overwhelming attack from the savages. He and his 
comrades had made up their minds that there was noth- 
ing for them but to die at their posts ; and yet, he said, 
a little gunpowder would save them. H Spain would 
furnish that, he would pledge his personal honor that it 


should be paid for as soon as he had flogged the Creeks 
and Cherokees. 

Dr. White assured Sevier that Spain would furnish 
the powder. To procure it, he had only to make appli- 
cation to Don Gardoqui ; and he added that Spain was 
about to spread her sheltering wings over the entire Mis- 
sissippi Valley, and on James Wilkinson in Kentucky, 
and John Sevier on the Watauga, she would shower her 
most distinguished favors. Sevier had no exalted opin- 
ion of Wilkinson, and the mention of his name, coupled 
with that of Kentucky, was enough to arouse all his 
remarkable powers of fascination. Neither friend nor 
enemy had ever been able to withstand them, and the 
Spanish envoy did not on this occasion. When White 
had finished telling all that he knew — which may not 
have been much — he wrapped a buffalo-robe about him, 
and stretched himself upon the floor of the log station to 
get a night's slumber ; and then Sevier wrote the sug- 
gested letter to the Spanish minister. That being done, 
he penned on the fly-leaf of a large Bible another letter — 
to Shelby — recounting all the details related by White, 
and stating his conviction that Wilkinson Avas engaged 
in a conspiracy with the Spaniards. By this time it was 
midnight, and his guest was soundly asleep. Then Se- 
vier hurried forth and into an adjoining cabin, where he 
roused Major Nathaniel Evans, who had left Eobertson, 
and come to him, as soon as he had heard that his old 
commander was going upon his present desperate expedi- 
tion. Recounting to Evans the contents of the letter, 


and reminding him that Shelby would have only six 
weeks in which to act before the assembling of the con- 
vention, Sevier bade him ride as if the fate of the West 
hung on his horse's heels ! Thus did that proscribed and 
outlawed man, who had lost all that most men value, and 
was at that very moment standing with his back to the 
wall, sternly waiting death at the hands of uncounted 
enemies, stretch out his arm across two hundred miles of 
trackless wilderness, to not only save Kentucky, but 
to shape for long centuries the destinies of the West. 
Is it not hard to find in all history a more magnificent 
spectacle ? * 

The rest is soon told. The convention met on the 
28th of July, 1788. When it was organized, its president 
rose, and stated that he had the day before received a 
message from the Secretary of Congress, which he would 
proceed to read to the convention. The substance of 
the message was, that Congress was not prepared to re- 
ceive the new State into the Union until the Federal 
Constitution had been generally ratified by the individ- 
ual States. The announcement was received with ill- 
concealed exultation by the adherents of Wilkinson. 
This refusal, they thought, would exhaust the patience 
of the people, and precipitate an immediate revolution. 
What followed can not be better told than in the words 
of Wilkinson to Miro. '^ From this proceeding of Con- 
gress," he says, ^^it resulted that the convention was of 

* See Appendix A. 


opinion that our proposed independence and separation 
from Virginia not being ratified, its mission and powers 
were at an end, and we found ourselves in the alterna- 
tive either of proceeding to declare our independence, 
or of waiting, according to the recommendation of Con- 
gress. This was the state of affairs, when the Hon. 
Caleb Wallace, one of our supreme judges, the Attor- 
ney-General Innis, and Benjamin Sebastian " (another 
supreme judge, and with the others then and subse- 
quently a pensioner of Spain), *' proposed a prompt 
separation from the American Union, and advocated 
with intrepidity the necessity of the measure. The arti- 
fice of Congress was exposed, its proceedings reprobated, 
the consequences of depending on a body whose interests 
were opposed to ours were depicted in the most vivid 
colors, and the strongest motives were set forth to justify 
the separation. The arguments were unanswerable, and 
no opposition was manifested in the course of the de- 
bates. Nevertheless, sir, when the question was finally 
taken, fear and folly prevailed against reason and judg- 
ment. It was thought safer and more convenient to ad- 
here to the recommendation of Congress, and, in conse- 
quence, it was decided that the people be advised to elect 
a new convention, which should meet in the month of 
November." All which merely exhibits the fact that 
Shelby had his men well in hand, and that his tactics 
were to let Wilkinson's friends do all the talking, while 
his should do all the voting. 

The traitors met even a worse defeat in the Novem- 


ber convention, for meanwhile Shelby and his associ- 
ates, Judge Muter and Thomas Marshall — father to 
the great Chief-Justice, and the intimate friend of 
Washington — had more thoroughly aroused the dele- 
gates to the danger of the situation. But here again I 
will allow Wilkinson to be his own historian. He writes 
to Miro : ^' The last convention was legally elected, and 
met at Danville in the month of November, in conform- 
ity with the decree above mentioned. Marshall and Mu- 
ter had, in the mean time, been scattering distrust and 
apprehensions calculated to do injury to our cause. It 
is evident, however, that it has acquired considerable 
force ; but, in order to elicit an unequivocal proof of the 
dispositions of that assembly, I submitted to its examina- 
tion my original memorial and the joint answer of your- 
self and Navarro. . . . Some of our friends urged me to 
avail myself of this opportunity to revive the great ques- 
tion, but I thought that it was more judicious to indulge 
those who, for the moment, wish only that a new appli- 
cation be made in relation to the independence and sepa- 
ration of Kentucky from Virginia, and that a memorial 
be addressed to Congress on the necessity of obtaining 
the free use of the navigation of the Mississippi. I as- 
sented to these last propositions the more readily, that 
it was unanimously resolved that should any of them be 
rejected, then the people would be invited to adopt all 
the measures necessary to secure for themselves a sepa- 
rate government from that of the United States, because 
it would have become evident that Congress had neither 


the will nor the power to satisfy their hopes. I deter- 
mined, therefore, to wait for the effects which will result 
from the disappointment of those hopes, and on which 
I rely to unite the country into one opinion. This is the 
basis on which the great question now rests, and the con- 
vention has adjourned to the next month. . . . Thus, sir, 
if we review the policy favored by the inhabitants of 
Kentucky, we see that the most intelligent and the 
wealthiest relish our designs. . . . 

'^ There are three conditions which are requisite to 
perpetuate the connection of this section of the country 
with the Atlantic States. The first and the most im- 
portant is the navigation of the Mississippi ; the second, 
which is of equal consequence, is the admission of this 
district into the Union as an independent State, and on 
the same footing with the others ; the third, and the 
last, which is of less moment, is the exemption from 
taxes until the befalling of the two events previously 
mentioned. Now, sir, as two of these conditions are in- 
admissible, either by the Atlantic States or by Spain, 
can any one hesitate to declare what will be the conse- 
quence ? With due deference I say — no ; because, as it 
is not rational to suppose the voluntary casting away of 
property, that another may profit by it, so it is not to be 
presumed that the Eastern States, which at present have 
the balance of power in their favor in the American Gov- 
ernment, will consent to strip themselves of this advan- 
tage, and increase the weight of the Southern States, 
by acknowledging the independence of this district, 


and admitting it to be a member of the Federal 
Union. . . . 

'*The same effect will be produced bj the suspension 
of the navigation of the Mississippi, which lies entirely in 
the power of Spain, and which must reduce this section 
of the country to misery and ruin ; and as it has been 
stipulated that the operations of the Federal Government 
shall be uniform, the new Congress will have to lay taxes, 
without exception whatever, over the whole country sub- 
mitted to its jurisdiction. The people here not having 
the means of paying those taxes, will resist them, and the 
authority of the new government will be set at naught, 
which will produce a civil war, and result in the separa- 
tion of the West from the East. 

"This event is written in the book of destiny. But 
if, to produce it, we trust solely to the natural effect of 
political measures, we shall experience some delay. It is 
in the power of Spain, however, to precipitate its accom- 
plishment by a judicious co-operation ; and permit me 
here to illustrate the observations which I presented 
some time ago to yourself and Navarro, in my answer to 
your inquries as to the nature of that co-operation. 

" As long as the connection between the Americans 
of the East and of the West on this side of the Appala- 
chian Mountains shall produce reciprocal benefits, and an 
equal security to their common interests and happiness, 
the Union will maintain itself on a solid foundation, and 
will resist any effort to dissolve it ; but as soon as it shall 
be ascertained that one section of the confederacy derives 


from the Union more advantages than the other, and 
that the blessings of a good government — such as peace 
and protection can not be equally distributed, then har- 
mony will cease, and jealousies arise, producing discord 
and disunion. In order to aid the favorable dispositions 
of Providence, to foment the suspicions and feelings of 
distrust already existing here, and inflame the animosity 
between the Eastern and Western States, Spain must re- 
sort to every artifice and other means which may be in 
her power. 

^'I have stated that the navigation of the Mississippi, 
and its admission as an independent State, and a member 
of the Union, are rights clamied by the people of this 
part of the country, and constituting one of the principal 
conditions under which its connection with the Atlan- 
tic States is to continue. Hence it follows that every 
manifestation of the power of Spain, and of the debility 
of the United States, every evidence of the resolution of 
the former to retain exclusively for herself the right of 
navigation on the Mississippi, and every proof of the 
incapacity of the latter, will facilitate our views. Every 
circumstance also that will tend to impede our admission 
as an independent State, will loosen the attachment of 
many individuals, increase the discontent of the people, 
and favor the execution of our plan. 

*' While this affair is pending, Spain ought to con- 
sider the navigation of the Mississippi as one of the most 
precious jewels of her crown ; for, whatever power shall 

command that navigation, will control all the country 


which is watered by that river, and by those streams 
which fall into it. This control will be as effective and 
complete as that of the key upon the lock, or that of the 
citadel over the exterior works which it commands. 
The grant of this boon ought to be looked upon as the 
price of our attachment and gratitude, and I beg leave to 
be permitted to repeat that there must be known no in- 
stance of its being extended to any other than those who 
understand and promote the interests of Spain in this 
part of the country, I entreat you, sir, to believe that 
this question of navigation is the main one on which de- 
pends the union of the West and East ; and that, if Con- 
gress can obtain the free use of the Mississippi, and 
if Spain should cede it without condition, it would 
strengthen the Union, and would deprive Spain of all its 
influence on this district. 

'^The sanguine spirit of an American impels him to 
construe in his favor everything that is left doubtful, and 
therefore Spain can not act with too absolute precision 
on this important question. You must not forget, sir, 
that such was my first impression, in which I have been 
daily confirmed by subsequent observations and experi- 
ence. The generality of our population are constantly 
discussing and fostering these ideas, and as long as the 
hopes they have conceived on this subject are kept 
up, it is a circumstance which will militate in favor 
of the Union, and will delay the effect of my opera- 

The foregoing remarks, which were promptly for- 


warded to the Spanish ministry, encouraged Spain in 
her obstinate refusal to open the Mississippi, and they 
prompted the long hostilities with which she incited 
the Creeks and Cherokees to harass the Cumberland 



The correspondence between Robertson and McGilli- 
vray was of no practical benefit to the beleaguered colony 
along the Cumberland. From it, however, resulted the 
fact that, no sooner did Spain conceive the idea that she 
could make either vassals or allies of the border set- 
tlers, than the New Orleans authorities made friendly 
overtures to Robertson ; assuring him of peace with the 
Indians, and the free navigation of the Mississippi, if 
he would look to Spain for protection. As early as 
April 20, 1783, and on several subsequent occasions, 
Miro had held out to him strong inducements to set- 
tle on the west of the Mississippi ; offering his colony 
a vast territory, exemption from taxation, the free ex- 
ercise of religion, and every material aid to worldly 
prosperity. These offers Robertson had courteously de- 
clined, but he had taken advantage of them to open a 
friendly correspondence with the Spanish Governor. 
The treaty with McGillivray, which looked to his exter- 


mination, had not then been made ; but Robertson was 
aware of the potent influence which the Spaniards ex- 
ercised over the savages. He therefore aimed to 
conciliate them, and in his efforts to that end he 
went so far as to flatter Miro's vanity by giving his 
name to the Cumberland region, when it was erected 
into a political " district " by the North Carolina Legis- 
lature. The compliment seems to have secured Miro's 
personal good- will to Robertson, but. it did not induce 
him to obstruct the hostile policy of his government. 
The settlement was weak ; it needed a few years of quiet 
to give it strength enough to defy both Spaniards and 
Indians. Hence, Robertson sought peace ; but he got 
only war from his treacherous neighbors. Now, he met 
these friendly overtures with an absolute refusal to have 
any dealings with Spain. 

The formal reply of Robertson to the overtures of 
Miro I have not been able to discover ; but there can 
be no question of its character. To all his friends and 
neighbors he expressed unqualified opposition to any 
kind of alliance with the Spaniards ; and this he did 
when a strong party among the settlers, eager for com- 
mercial facilities, and longing for a respite from con- 
tinual conflict, urged upon him some arrangement by 
which the colony might secure rest, and freedom from 
midnight massacre. Many of the leading men in the 
district expressed such sentiments, and one of them — 
Brigadier-General Daniel Smith — went so far as to open 
a private correspondence with the Spanish Governor on 


the subject. In one of his dispatches to Wilkinson, 
Miro says that he had received a letter from General 
Smith, dated March 4, 1789, which informed him that 
*^ the inhabitants of Cumberland, or Miro, would, in Sep- 
tember, send delegates to North Carolina, in order to 
solicit from the Legislature of that State an act of separa- 
tion, and that, as soon as this should be obtained, other 
delegates would be sent from Cumberland to New Or- 
leans, with the object of placing that territory under the 
domination of his Majesty."* 

If McGillivray may be believed — and it is as well to 
doubt his statements, unless they are strongly corrob- 
orated — even Messrs. Hoggatt and Ewing, the messen- 
gers and confidential friends of Robertson, shared 
Smith's sentiments, and went so far as to express them 
to the Creek chieftain in the interview which has been 
mentioned, and this before Eobertson had addressed 
McGillivray in the equivocal language that is quoted on 
a preceding page. Directly after the visit of those gen- 
tlemen, McGillivray wrote to Miro as follows : **I must 
inform you that, since the departure of Garion with my 
last letters, two delegates from the District of Cumber- 
land have arrived, with proposals of peace to this nation. 
They represented to me that they were reduced to ex- 
tremities by the incursions of our warriors, and that, to 
obtain peace and our friendship, they were disposed to 
submit to whatever conditions we might choose to im- 

* *' Spanish Domination in Louisiana," p. 262. 


pose ; and, presuming that it would have a powerful in- 
fluence with me, and would secure them my fayor, they 
added that they would throw themselves into the arms 
of his Majesty as subjects, and that Cumberland and 
Kentucky are determined to free themselves from their 
dependence on Congress, because that body can not pro- 
tect either their persons or their property, or favor their 
commerce, and they therefore believe that they owe no 
obedience to a power which is incapable of benefiting 

And shall we censure the colonists if, hemmed in by 
daily danger from countless enemies, and altogether neg- 
lected both by North Carolina and the General Govern- 
ment, they did indulge in these sentiments ? Can we 
fail to sympathize with their unparalleled privations and 
sufferings, and to wonder at the heroic fortitude with 
which they had borne them during eight long and dread- 
ful years ? But privation, suffering, personal peril, the 
slaughter of his children and his best loved friends, and 

* Gayarre's "Spanish Domination in Louisiana," pp. 213, 214. It is 
observable, in McGillivray's letters to Robertson, that he alludes solely to 
Mr. Hoggatt, and makes no reference whatever to his companion, Mr. 
Ewing. I hence conclude that these sentiments, if spoken at all, were 
not expressed by the latter gentleman. He was a man of prominence, 
and decidedly outspoken; but not one of his many recorded utterances 
accords with those attributed to the envoys by McGillivray. It is al- 
together probable that the wily Creek chief exaggerated the friendly re- 
marks of Robertson's messengers, in order to enhance his own impor- 
tance with the Spanish Governor. 


daily life in a furnace of fire, did not for a moment shako 
the iron resolution of Eobertson. To ward off the torch 
and the tomahawk from his friends, he was willing to 
*' palter in a double sense" with a perfidious enemy; 
but his real feelings are expressed in the following words 
which he daily addressed to his neighbors, and wrote to 
Sevier at this period. '^In Kentucky as well as here," 
he says, *' people suffer greatly from the power which 
the Spaniards possess over the navigation of the Missis- 
sippi, as well as by the influence they exert over the In- 
dians. We all have had abundant reason to judge and 
pronounce the exercise of such power and influence to 
be ^evil, only evil, and that continually.' They have 
tempted us to abandon our settlements ; failing to ac- 
complish by their specious offers their sinister designs, 
they have enraged and backed our savage neighbors to 
a war of extermination upon us. We despise them for 
their dujilicity, we scorn their allurements, and we abhor 
and curse their savage crueFties. We can never trust 
them, and never prosper in any alliance or business with 
them. Heaven will avenge our wrongs some day. And 
even should we ourselves be cut off in the struggle, let us 
hold fast our faith, our innocence, our integrity, our 
honor, our government, and our possessions. The de- 
vices of the wicked shall not always prosper ; Heaven 
will avenge us yet ! " 

Eemarkable words to have been spoken by a man 
in the situation of Eobertson ! Had they been uttered 
where histories are written, they would be to-day 


among the annals of this nation, and this man's name 
a household word in every corner of our country. 
But his words were spoken, and his deeds were done, 
amid the silence of a far-away forest ; and so it is 
left to a distant time to do appropriate honor to this 
true moral hero, this grand leader of Western ciyil- 

The war upon Robertson continued ; but the year 
1789 is spoken of as one of comparative peace along the 
Cumberland. Only thirty lives were taken by the Indians, 
and a thousand horses stolen, ninety-seven of which be- 
longed to Robertson. His life, however, came once more 
near being sacrificed. He had gone one morning to a 
field, where some of his men were at work, about half a 
mile from his dwelling. As was customary, a sentinel 
was stationed on the lookout, and about noon he gave 
warning of some movements in a neighboring canebrake. 
While the attention of Robertson was being called to the 
circumstance, a volley was fired by the Indians, a ball 
striking him in the foot, passing through the bone, and 
inflicting a wound which made him a cripple for long 
afterward. The Indians were a party of thirty, but they 
fled as soon as they had delivered their fire ; and Robert- 
son ordered immediate pursuit by some volunteers who 
hastily came together. The savages gave the whites 
a long chase, but were at last come up with, and, in a 
sudden attack, were routed, with the loss of one killed 
and five or six wounded, together with '^ sixteen guns, 
nineteen shot-pouches, and all their baggage, con- 


sisting of blankets, moccasins, leggins, skins, and other 

This insignificant skirmish is mentioned, merely be- 
cause it afforded his first military experience to a young 
man of about twenty-two, who subsequently attained a 
singular eminence in American history. lie had in the 
previous year been appointed district attorney of the 
Cumberland District, and on the 12th of January, 1789, 
was admitted to practice at the bar of Nashville. Dur- 
ing that year he appeared as counsel in forty-two of the 
one hundred and ninety-two cases before the court, and 
in the succeeding year in two hundred and twenty-eight 
out of three hundred and ninety-seven cases. On the 
early records is the following entry : 

^* Wednesday, October 6, 1790 : Court met according 
to adjournment. Andrew Jackson, Esq., proved a bill of 
sale from Hugh McGary to Gasper Mansker for a negro 
man, which was 0. K." The initials were Jackson's 
abbreviation for '' Oil Korrect,^^ and an orthography 
equally as original is observable in all his subsequent 
literary productions. But if Jackson could not spell, 
he could fight, and in this skirmish he is reported to 
have been ^^bold, dashing, fearless, and mad upon his 

The young attorney had brought to Nashville intelli- 
gence that the requisite two thirds of the States had rati- 
fied the new Federal Constitution. The old Confederacy 
had been compared by these people to a barrel with thir^ — 
teen staves, but without a hoop to bind the staves to- 


gether, and hence liable to fall apart at the first jar or 
collision. Now the rejoicing was great that a cooper 
had been found to securely hoop the barrel ; and when 
the Fourth of July came round, expression was given to 
the universal joy over this new birth of a nation. Pow- 
der was burned, and toasts were drunk ; and in the last 
toast their own fire-girdled community received appro- 
priate recognition. It was alluded to as ''The Sala- 
mander, which lives in the fire"; ''The solitary Phoe- 
nix, that revives from its ashes"; and "The Bed of 
Pansy or Heart's-ease, trodden upon, 3^et expanding its 
leaves, and perfuming the atmosphere" — which toasts 
are good evidence of the presence of some one in the 
colony of higher literary attainments than Andrew 

Soon after the tidings brought by Jackson, came 
news to the Cumberland of the organization of the new 
government, and the inauguration of George Washing- 
ton as first President of the United States. North 
Carolina had not yet ratified the Constitution, nor ceded 
her Western territory to the Union ; but the colonists 
looked for these events m the near future, when they 
would be under the immediate government of the ven- 
erated Washington. Nothing could have given them 
greater satisfaction, for in the prospect they saw peace, 
security, an open Mississippi, and the removal of every 
obstacle to their progress in numbers and prosperity. 
Nowhere in the country was there more absolute confi- 
dence in the great man who had carried the colonies 


tlirougli the Revolution than beyond the Alleghanies. 
Several of the leading colonists were his personal friends. 
Thomas Marshall was his constant correspondent ; John 
Sevier had held a commission as captain in his corps, 
under royal rule in Virginia, aad had given his name to 
the Watauga District before Washington held a national 
command, or was known to the general public outside of 
the Old Dominion. Therefore, the rejoicing was great 
when these anticipations were realized by North Carolina 
again joining the Union, and soon afterward — on the 
25th of February, 1790 — ceding to the United States all 
her territory west of the Alleghanies. 

The first acts of Washington served to increase the 
universal confidence that was felt in his wisdom and 
judgment. He appointed, as Governor of the new Terri- 
tory, William Blount, of North Carolina — who had com- 
mended himself to the Western settlers by a strenuous 
opposition in the old Congress to the treaty of Hopewell ; 
and he gave to John Sevier the rank of general in the 
United States Army, and military command of Washing- 
ton District ; and a like rank, and command of the Cum- 
berland District, to James Robertson. Only a few days 
subsequent came tidings that the General Government 
had concluded a treaty with McGillivray, by which 
the machinations of Spain would be thwarted, and 
a permanent peace secured with the powerful Creek 

Before the organization of the new government, Con- 
gress had appointed commissioners to treat with the 


Creeks, but the negotiations had come to nothing. The 
whole Western frontier was in a disturbed condition ; and 
Washington was no sooner in office, than he directed his 
attention to securing peace with all the Northern and 
Southern Indians. He sent messengers with friendly 
overtures to McGillivray, but they were coldly received. 
Not discouraged by this rebuff, he then dispatched 
other messengers, inviting the Creek chief to New York, 
offering to defray the expense of his journey, and to 
recognize any just claim he might make for the de- 
struction or confiscation of his property during the 
Eevolution. McGillivray lent a kindly ear to these 
overtures, for he saw in them an opportunity to 
gratify his strong passion for display, and a possible 
chance to cajole money from the United States Treas- 

He set out for the seat of government, accompanied 
by twenty-eight of his principal warriors — all of them 
painted and plumed, and arrayed in the highest style of 
Creek half-nakedness, and he himself bedecked with all 
the trappings of barbaric royalty. At Philadelphia, and 
all along the route, the delegation met the most flatter- 
ing attentions ; and, at New York, McGillivray was re- 
ceived as if he had been the sovereign of one of the 
"nations of the earth." He was given elegant accom- 
modations and liberal entertainment. The Tammany 
Society — then but recently organized — turned out to 
greet him and his warriors. With their Grand Sachem 
at their head, they appeared with their savage parapher- 


nalia of blanket and breech-cloth, hatchet and war-clubs, 
horse-tail plumes and rooster-feathers, moccasins and 
leggins, and tinkling ornaments, and all of them paint- 
ed as if to go upon the war-path. Thus arrayed, they 
expected to make a profound impression on the un- 
traveled sons of the forest ; but the simple savages met 
all the display with a stolid indifference, or at the most 
a guttural ''Ugh!" which with them expresses almost 
anything except astonishment. The truth is, that the 
North American Indian has about as hearty a contempt 
for sham as Thomas Carlyle himself. 

But, amid all this adulation and empty display, 
McGillivray did not forget the business he had gone 
upon ; and, in the negotiations that ensued, he showed 
quite as much diplomatic skill as the American ofiRcials. 
The treaty, which was soon concluded, secured to the 
Creeks valuable presents, a liberal annuity, and the resto- 
ration of an extensive territory which they had previously 
ceded to the whites ; and to McGillivray, by a private ar- 
ticle, one hundred thousand dollars as compensation for 
his confiscated property, and the rank and pay of briga- 
dier-general in the Army of the United States. These 
extraordinary concessions were made to the Creeks, be- 
cause of a single clause contained in the treaty, by which 
they acknowledged themselves to be " under the protec- 
tion of the United States, and of no other nation whatso- 
ever." This, it was thought, would effectually thwart 
the machinations of Spain, and secure permanent peace 
to the border settlements. 


And had permanent peace been the result, it would 
not have been too dearly purchased by this treaty. But 
no such result was within the scope of McGillivray's in- 
tentions. His sincerity may be judged of from the fact 
that at this very time he was an officer in both the 
British and Spanish armies ! When about to set out for 
New York, he had written to the Spanish Governor at 
New Orleans that, '* although he should conclude a 
treaty of peace with the Federal Government, yet he 
would ever remain faithful to his old friends the Span- 
iards ; and he asked from the court of Madrid many 
favors, with an annual stipend of fifteen thousand dol- 
lars to carry on hostilities against the projected estab- 
lishment of the South Carolina Company, if not against 
the United States."* At the same time he expressed 
the same sentiments in letters to his intimate friend 
William Pan ton, a Spanish merchant at Pensacola. 
Alluding to the results he expected from the proposed 
peace negotiations, he said to him, "Experience has 
proved that such matters are only to be attained by 
the longest fire, and point of sword ^ particularly with 

Soon after the execution of the Creek treaty at New 
York, a similar one was concluded with the Cherokees at 
Knoxville, by which that tribe, in a like manner, ac- 
knowledged itself to be "under the protection of the 
United States, and of no other nation whatsoever." In 

* Gayarr^'s " Spanish Domination," p. 300. 


friendship with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, and at 
peace now with the Creeks and Cherokees, the Cumber- 
land colony could reasonably look forward to an unbro 
ken progress in prosperity and population. These ex- 
pectations would doubtless have been at once realized 
but for the bad faith of McGillivray, and the treason of 
Wilkinson, which encouraged the continued hostility of 
the Spaniards. 

And yet into this furnace of fire men ventured, and 
they suryived there, and increased in numbers, in de- 
fiance of both Indians and Spaniards. Nothing bet- 
ter illustrates the mania for Western emigration, 
which set in directly after the Revolution, than the 
fact that the flame-girdled settlements along the Cum- 
berland doubled in numbers between the years 1784 
and 1790. In 1784 the population did not exceed 
3,500 — in 1790, by actual count, it was 7,042 — one 
thousand of whom were expert riflemen. At this 
time, also, the settlements covered a larger area than 
ever before in their history. In a letter to the Sec- 
retary of War, written about this period, Governor 
Blount describes the country as follows : ^^ The settle- 
ments extend up and down the Cumberland Eiver, 
from east to west, about eighty-five miles, and the 
extreme width from north to south does not exceed 
twenty-five miles, and its general width does not ex- 
ceed half that distance ; and not only the country 
surrounding the extreme frontier, but the interior 
part (which is to be found only by comparison with 


the more exposed part), is covered generally with 
thick and high cane, and a heavy growth of large 
timber, and, where tliere happens to be no cane, with 
thick underwood, which afford the Indians an oppor- 
tunity of lying days and weeks in any and every part 
of the district in wait near the houses, and of doing 
injuries to the inhabitants, when they themselves are 
so hid or secured that they have no apprehensions 
of injuries being done in return ; and they escape 
from pursuit, even though it is immediate. This dis- 
trict has an extreme frontier of at least two hundred 

The people still dwelt either within or in the im- 
mediate vicinity of fortified stations ; but these had mul- 
tiplied greatly, and now numbered not less than thirty- 
five, nearly all of them stronger and better armed, than 
those erected by the first settlers. At no previous time 
had the colony been so well prepared to defend itself ; 
nevertheless, every member warmly welcomed the com- 
ing peace, and cordially assented to the policy of the 
General Government, which was conciliation and for- 
bearance toward the Indians, coupled with such uniform 
kindness as should '*wean and win" them from alliance 
and friendship with the Spaniards. "The policy," said 
Sevier, "will not be successful. Your kindness the In- 
dian will mistake for weakness. He can be controlled 
only by his fears. Only when he thinks you more pow- 
erful than he is, will he be your friend." All civilized 
intercourse with the North American savage bears wit- 


ness to the truth of these conclusions ; but for years the 
General Government pursued an opposite policy, and, 
even when a hostile Creek or Cherokee was on every by- 
path, it forbade his being pursued beyond the boundary 
of the white settlements. 



By the recent treaties the Creeks and Cherokees had 
acknowledged the supremacy of the United States, and 
agreed to look to them for protection, and to "no other 
nation whatsoever." This was as it should be, for these 
Indians occupied United States territory. In holding 
treaty relations with them, Spain had committed a 
breach of international law, which had been submitted 
to only because the Federal Government lacked the 
power to uphold its rights. It now sought to gain by 
diplomacy what it could not compel by force, and to 
wean the Indians from the Spanish alliance by a persist- 
ent course of conciliation and kindness. Evidently, the 
success of this policy would depend upon the good faith 
of McGillivray, and his ability to impress upon his peo- 
ple a due respect for treaty obligations. What fidelity 
might be expected from the Creek chief, may be inferred 
from his known crafty and treacherous character, and 
his intense hatred of the Americans ; what sacredness 
the majority of his people would attach to a treaty, may 


be gathered from the remark of one of them to Sevier. 
*' Powder and lead, stroud, and Kaskaskia, me know," 
he said, ^^ but paper me don't know." 

Only fear of punishment, or constant donations, could 
restrain the savages from continual acts of hostility to- 
ward the whites ; and no\7 that the Government liad 
adopted the latter policy, it would have as competitor 
the Spaniards, whose largesses had exceeded its own ten- 
fold,* and who, moreover — not having a west-going emi- 
gration to provide for — had never asked of these nations 
the cession of an acre of territory. In this buying of the 
Indians the United States could not hope to outbid the 
Spaniards. Sevier was therefore right — the peace policy 
of the Government would be a failure. Fear of Sevier 
might restrain McGillivray from raids upon the Watauga 
and French Broad settlers, but no such fear would oper- 
ate in favor of the feeble settlements along the Cumber- 
land. Peace, therefore, to the heroic Robertson was now, 
as before, dependent upon the will of the Spaniards, and 
their action would doubtless be governed by the advices 
they should continue to receive from Wilkinson. 

I have stated that in the convention of ]N"ovember 
1788, secession in Kentucky met its Waterloo. But it 
clearly appears from his lengthy dispatch to Miro, 

* In a dispatch to the Spanish ministry, dated February 24, 1794, the 
Baron de Carondeiet states the yearly expenditure, in presents and pen- 
sions to the Indians, to be fifty-five thousand dollars — nearly the entire 
revenue of Louisiana. 


quoted on a preceding page, that of this fact Wilkinson 
was not yet conscious. In this he resembled a species of 
reptile that is said to survive, and exhibit vital power — 
closing its rapacious jaws upon its victim with an iron 
grip — long after its head has been severed from its body. 
So, though his treasonable conspiracy had lost its vitality, 
Wilkinson was still potent for evil. He could continue to 
encourage Spain in her now hopeless dream of severing 
the trans-Alleghany region from the Union, and thus 
strengthen her resolve to close the Mississippi, and 
prolong her hostile influence upon the Southwestern 
Indians. This doubtless he would do, whether he 
thought the end of Spain could be accomplished or not, 
in order to retain the annual pension of two thousand 
dollars which Miro's official dispatch of May 22, 1790, 
shows to have been awarded him by the Spanish Govern- 
ment. In this same dispatch Miro recommends that a 
like pension be granted to Judge Sebastian, '^ because," 
he says, *^he will be able to enlighten me on the conduct 
of Wilkinson, and on what we have to expect from the 
plans of the said brigadier-general." That is, a ^' thief 
was set to catch a thief," a spy to watch another spy ; 
and such infamous proceedings these Spaniards styled 
diplomacy ! 

Owing to its effect upon the policy of Spain, the trea- 
son of Wilkinson exerted for years a baleful influence 
upon the colony along the Cumberland ; but it is unne- 
cessary to go further into its details in this narrative. It 
need only be said that he succeeded, by means of Spanish 


gold and Spanish promises, in corrupting some of the 
most prominent men in Kentucky. The movements of 
the conspirators, as they from time to time disclosed 
themselves, were duly reported by Thomas Marshall to 
Washington ; and early in 1790, the President ventured 
upon the hazardous step of giving office to all the leaders 
except Wilkinson, in hopes to thereby detach them from 
the conspiracy. At last Wilkinson himself applied for 
an appointment in the army. This fact he records as 
follows: "I pursued," he writes, *^the trade in which 
I was engaged until the year 1791, when, discouraged by 
disappointment and misfortunes, the effect of my igno- 
rance of commerce, I resumed the sword of my country 
in December of the same year."* 

He omits to say that his petition for reinstatement in 
the army was granted solely on the recommendation of 
Thomas Marshall. When censured for thus aiding a 
man he knew to be a traitor, Marshall justified himself 
by saying that he considered Wilkinson *' well qualified 
for the commission he had solicited and obtained ; that 
while he remained unemployed by Government, he con- 
sidered him dangerous to the public quiet of Kentucky, 
perhaps to her safety ; that if his commission did not se- 
cure his fidelity, it would at least place him under con- 
trol in the midst of faithful officers, whose vigilance would 
render him harmless, if it did not make him honest." f 

* Wilkinson's "Memoirs of My Own Times," vol. ii, p 114. 
f H. Marshall's "History of Kentucky," vol. i, p. 391. 


At the suggestion of Washington, General Wayne 
kept a close eye upon Wilkinson ; but all his vigilance 
did not ^^ render him harmless," nor '^make him hon- 
est." With his new oath of allegiance fresh upon his 
lips, he continued a treasonable correspondence with the 
Spanish officials, and there is positive proof that down to 
the year 1800 he was in receipt of a Spanish pension. 
His intrigues kept Kentucky in a dangerous ferment till 
1792, when it was admitted as a State, and Shelby was 
elected its first Governor. And even subsequent to these 
events, and during the entire four years of Shelby's ad- 
ministration, it required the unswerving loyalty of the 
men who had rallied around him in 1788, and all his 
own indomitable will and wisdom, to hold Kentucky 
firmly to her moorings in the Union. So potent may be 
a little poison infused into the veins of the body politic, 
and so harmful the influence which one man, destitute 
of principle and patriotism, may exert upon a loyal and 
intelligent community. 

From such a man as Wilkinson, it is a relief to turn 
to one like Robertson. He has passed through the fire, 
and come out gold ; but a fiercer fire is yet before him. 
From this, too, he will come out doubly refined, and from 
the midst of it will look serenely abroad, and say again 
to his comrades : ^* We may be cut off in the struggle, 
but let us hold fast our faith, our innocence, our integ- 
rity, our honor, and our government. The devices of the 
wicked shall not always prosper. Heaven will avenge us 



For longer than Troy withstood the Greeks had this 
handful of backwoodsmen held their ground against two 
savage nations, backed by a powerful European mon- 
archy ; but, directly following the treaty with McGilli- 
vray, there came a lull in the fiery hail-storm that had 
raged along the Cumberland. At the first dying away 
of the tempest, the settlers emerged from their log for- 
tresses to again plow their fields, plant their corn, and 
engage in the ordinary employments of civilization. 
'New colonists, too, soon began to crowd the two roads 
which were now open from the older settlements. Large 
numbers would assemble at the eastern termini of these 
roads, and there go into camp to await the coming of the 
guard which, at stated periods, was dispatched to escort 
them to the Cumberland. Being themselves well armed, 
the emigrants would, under this guard of fifty practiced 
woodsmen, traverse the three hundred miles of wilder- 
ness with no fear of Indian aggression. And arrived at 
their destination they would be sure of meeting a cordial 
welcome, for every new-comer added to the strength and 
security of the community. Every door was open to the 
new settler ; and his location being decided on, all the 
neighborhood set at once to work to build his dwelling. 
This, even if it happened to be a stockade, would be in 
readiness, fully furnished, in the course of four or five 
days ; so many and so skillful would be the hands en- 
gaged in its erection. The furniture would not be of the 
first order of elegance, but it would probably comprise 
about all the domestic appliances that are essential to hu- 


man existence. The dwelling furnished, and the family 
moved into it, there would come the '' house-warming," 
when all the neighbors would again come together ; but 
now for a "joyful time," at an old-fashioned merry-mak- 
ing. James Gamble, the noted fiddler, would be among 
them, and he would no sooner draw his bow across the 
strings, and strike up " Hie-Bettie-Martin," than a dozen 
couples would spring upon the puncheon floor, and reel 
would follow reel, and jig succeed to jig, intermingled 
with '^^square-sets," "contra-dances," and "three and 
four handed," till the stars went out, and the sun arose, 
and scored another day upon the calender. And "fast 
and furious " the merriment might flow, even though a 
hundred savages were prowling in the adjacent forest. 
And the savages were there again, in every one of the 
settlements ; but not now on evil deeds intent, with 
tomahawk, and scalping-knife, and short-barreled Span- 
ish rifle. Those implements they had hung up in their 
wigwams for use on some future occasion. Now they 
had come for "trade" — for stroud, and beads, and other 
trinkets; but most of all for "bald-face," "old-rye," 
"tangle-foot," and " knock-'em-stiff " — which terms, in 
backwoods commerce, stand for that compound of strych- 
nine, juniper-berries, and alcohol, which in highly civil- 
ized communities goes by the name of whisky. Many 
serpents had come into the Indian country, and many of 
the braves had been bitten by them, and nothing will 
cure a serpent-bite but a strong dose of the ''bald-face" 
medicine. One of these Indians with a large jug upon 


liis shoulder, applied to ''King Boyd/' at the sign of the 
Bed Heifer — the distillery already mentioned. ''How 
much do you want?'' asked the distiller. **Jug — you 
fill him — young warrior — snake bite him — die soon — 
bald-face cure him/*' was the reply. "But two gallons is 
too much — it will kill him." '* Xo, no," was the an- 
swer. "Snake very big — bite very bad — young warrior 
sure die." And he staggered away, to experience a worse 
bite than that of the rattlesnake. But even the most 
badly bitten of the savages created no disorder in the 
settlements. The rule of Eobertson was strict that none 
of his visitors should imbibe fire-water except when miles 
away from a white man's dwelling. So, peaceable rela- 
tions were not disturbed by the subtle fiend that robs 
both white man and red of his reason. 

It really seemed that a day of peace, and rest, and 
genuine prosperity had at last dawned upon the colony. 
The few of the earlier settlers who had escaped slaughter 
thought the worst had passed, and encouraged the new- 
comers to believe they would not have to endure the hor- 
rors and cruelties of savage warfare. But Eobertson 
advised all not to be too adventurous. The Indian, he 
said, was not to be trusted. He had no natural love for 
the white man ; and behind him were the Spaniards, who 
were crafty, malignant, and treacherous. 

When the autumn came, news arrived that Washing- 
ton had reopened negotiations with Spain, with every 
prospect of bringing them to a favorable conclusion ; also 
that Congress had passed an act for the defense of the 


Western frontier, and that a body of troops was already 
on its way to the Cumberland. These reports served to 
increase the general confidence in the administration of 
Washington, who, it was universally believed, would 
know how to deal with the wily Spaniards. And to all, 
not in the secrets of the Spanish Cabinet, there did ap- 
pear good ground for the opinion that a speedy end 
would come to the harassing complications in regard to 
the navigation of the Mississippi. War seemed about to 
break out between Spain and Great Britain, and it was 
expected that one of the first movements of the British 
would be the invasion of Louisiana by passing troops 
from Canada through United States territory. This 
could not be done without the consent of the American 
Government, and Washington deemed the occasion op- 
portune for demanding of Spain the relinquishment of 
her claim to the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi. 
He accordingly instructed Mr. Carmichael, the charge 
d'affaires at Madrid, to press the demand upon the Sj^an- 
ish Cabinet with pertinacious earnestness. This Car- 
michael did, representing that *^the navigation was of 
such absolute necessity to the United States, that they 
must, sooner or later, acquire it, either through separate 
action and by the exertion of their own individual power, 
or in conjunction with Great Britain. This was the de- 
cree of ProTidence, written on the very map of the Con- 
tinent of America, and therefore it could not be resisted 
by human agency, however obstinate and powerful it 
might be. Was it not the part of wisdon to anticipate 


an irresistible event, and make the most of it, by gently 
and peacefully facilitating its accomplishment, which 
otherwise would inevitably be brought about by vio- 

But the overtures of Washington made no impression 
on the Spanish Cabinet. The decree of Providence, 
which Carmichael affirmed to be written on the Ameri- 
can map, they were not able to decipher — it probably not 
being in the Spanish language — but they had a design of 
their own, and they believed the aforesaid map could be 
adjusted in accordance with it. At the head of this 
Cabinet was now Manuel Godoy, a young man with 
neither national spirit nor statesmanlike quality, who 
had been elevated to his high position by Charles IV, for 
no better reason than because he was the especial favorite 
of his queen. Godoy saw that he had merely to pocket 
the insult which Great Britain had put upon Spain in 
regard to the settlement at Nootka Sound, to avoid a war 
with that power ; and, hence, he need not bargain with 
Washington to prevent the passage of British troops 
down the Mississippi. Besides, he fully believed in Wil- 
kinson's assurance to Miro that the Western country 
could be erected into an allied power, which would be a 
rampart to the Spanish possessions. In this view he was 
confirmed by the opinion of Don Diego Gardoqui, who 
had returned to Spain, and was now high in Godoy's 
confidence. As appears from a subsequent dispatch 
from Mr. Carmichael to Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of 
State, Don Gardoqui reported that he had witnessed. 


while minister in this country, nothing but dissensions, 
divisions, and jealousies, among both the American 
States and people ; that he had conversed with many 
citizens of the Atlantic States who desired to see the 
navigation of the Mississippi prohibited, and our limits 
narrowed, in order that all Western productions might 
be brought through the seaboard States, and our popula- 
tion be more concentrated. Also, he had met citizens of 
the Western country who treated their adhesion to the 
rest of the Union as visionary ; and he bad arrived at 
the conclusion that the American people did not desire 
this navigation, at least not so generally desire it as to 
make any united eftort to obtain it. And further, it was 
his firm conviction that the Western people, whenever 
they should acquire force, would separate from the 
United States. 

This was ^^the decree of Providence" as read by the 
Spaniards ; but, inasmuch as Providence might indefi- 
nitely postpone its execution, and meanwhile the Ken- 
tuckians might become so restive under a blockaded com- 
merce as to thwart the aforesaid decree by descending 
upon New Orleans with rifle and gunpowder, the Span- 
ish Cabinet decided to accelerate the providential designs 
by a slight modification of their policy. To cement their 
alliance with the Southern Indians they would increase 
their largesses of stroud, beads, and ^*^Kaskasky," and 
give McGillivray the rank and pay of a Spanish major- 
general, also an annual pension of two thousand dollars, 
and, in addition, as many guns, and as much ammu- 


nition as he might ask for ; thereby altogether out- 
bidding the United States in the recent treaties. To 
quiet the impatience of the Western people, the Span- 
iards would admit their produce down the Mississippi, 
and into Spanish ports, on the payment of a mere 
fifteen per cent duty ; providing always that none of 
their productions, neither Yankee clocks, pork-barrels, 
nor tobacco or soap boxes, should have upon them the 
figure of the goddess of liberty ; * the said goddess being 
suspected of having no very exalted opinion of hereditary 
monarchy, when represented by such kings as Charles 
IV and such ministers as Manuel Godoy. This trading 
permission, it is evident, would completely frustrate, if 
nothing else did, all of Wilkinson's plans for severing 
the West from the Union. This important considera- 
tion appears to have escaped the notice of the sagacious 
Godoy, until it was brought to his attention by the Span- 
ish Governor of Louisiana, f 

McGillivray accepted the Spanish appointment and 
pension, and thus was relieved from being any longer in 
the position of the ass between two bundles of hay. So 
long as he held the same rank of brigadier in both the 
Spanish and the American army, there was nothing be- 
yond mere personal feeling to incline him to serve one 
any better than the other. He held a divided allegiance ; 
but now he was freed from the perplexing dilemma, and 

* Gayarre's " Spanish Domination," p. 309. 
+ Ibid., p. 285. 


in a manner to satisfy his conscience, his feelings, and his 
pocket. However, he would make no open profession of 
faith until he could conclude an alliance with the Chero- 
kees, and also with the Shawnees — the powerful tribe 
which had recently helped to inflict a crushing defeat 
upon General Saint Clair. Meanwhile, he would con- 
tinue to hold the rank, and draw the pay, of an Ameri- 
can brigadier ; and would let his braves descend upon 
Kobertson by the way of the Ohickamauga towns, for 
thereby all their acts would be attributed to that nation 
of cut-throats. 

The foregoing facts explain how it came to pass that 
in the spring of 1792 a more severe storm broke upon the 
Cumberland than any which had yet been experienced 
by the devoted colony. With a full knowledge of this 
atrocious violation of good faith, and having furnished 
the means for its commission, Spain remonstrated with 
the United States for entering into the recent treaty with 
McGillivray, on the ground that the Creek nation, occu- 
pying American soil, was by prior treaties taken under 
Spanish protection. To this remonstrance Jefferson re- 
plied : "Are we to understand that, if we arm to repel 
the attacks of the Creeks on ourselves, it will disturb our 
peace with Spain ? That if we will not let them butcher 
us, Spain will consider it a cause of war ? We love and 
we value peace ; we abhor the follies of war, and we are 
not untried in its disasters and calamities. . . . We con- 
fide in our strength, without boasting of it ; we respect 
that of others without fearing it." 


Soon after Eobertson received the favorable tidings in 
regard to the Spanish negotiations, there arrived at Nash- 
ville the Government troops that had been detailed to aid 
in the protection of the Cumberland district. They 
were a body of one hundred and ninety cavalry and in- 
fantry, and under their convoy came a numerous train of 
wagons and pack-horses bearing arms and merchandise 
for the friendly Chickasaws. The tribe had been much 
exposed to incursions from Indians hostile to the whites, 
and annoyed by visits from Spanish emissaries who had 
sought to win them over to their designs, but it had re- 
mained faithful to its pledges to Robertson, and now the 
Government was bent on rewarding its long fidelity. 
Piomingo being duly apprised of this, a large delegation 
of Chickasaws came to Nashville, and were hospitably 
entertained by the inhabitants. The goods were speedily 
unboxed and distributed among the delighted Indians. 
They consisted of *^one thousand five hundred blankets ; 
one hundred pieces of blue strouds, calico, linsey ; blue, 
red, and yellow binding ; fifty suits of clothes and fifty 
hats, for the chiefs ; pieces of scarlet cloth for leggins, 
etc., and five hundred scalping-knives." A rifle was 
given to each chief, and "fifty good rifle-guns to the 
mountain-leader, Piomingo." The new-comers among 
the settlers were charmed with the simple ways and un- 
affected friendliness of the Chickasaws, and they rashly 
concluded that it would be an easy as well as a very 
pleasant thing for white and red people to "dwell to- 
gether in unity." 


None of the Cherokees had been invited to this gather- 
ing, but some were there, professing to be the ** white 
man's friends." Nevertheless, the old settlers did not 
like their appearance, and even the settlers' dogs re- 
garded them with suspicion, keeping continually at their 
heels, and watching their every movement. One of the 
loudest in friendly profession, but for whom Eobertson 
felt the strongest distrust, was a Chickamauga chief 
named Cutleotoy, the *' head-man" of a small town 
named Tuscagee, on the Tennessee, opposite the present 
site of Chattanooga. He was known to be an inveterate 
enemy of the whites, and one of the most bloodthirsty 
among the Chickamauga bandits ; but now, he said, he 
had buried the hatchet, was to be the white man's friend, 
and to no white man so friendly as to the good chief of 
the pale-faces along the Cumberland. Soon after he 
went away, some horses were missing from the outlying 
settlements ; and not long subsequently word came to 
Eobertson that Cutleotoy, on his return to Chickamauga, 
reported that the pale-faced chief had said to him : 
**Much blood has been spilled in our settlements ; and 
now, take notice, if any more is shed, I will come and 
sweep your towns clean with Indian blood ! " From 
which Cutleotoy concluded that it would be wise for the 
Cherokees to take the initiative, and descend with fire 
and tomahawk upon the Cumberland. 

About the same time a Captain Craig, whom the Gov- 
ernor had dispatched on a mission to the Chickamaugas, 
returned to Knoxville reporting that while he was in the 


Indian towns a body of warriors came in with scalps and 
some prisoners, whereupon a war-dance was held, with 
strong expressions of hostility to the whites ; also that 
McGillivray was again attempting to form a coalition of 
all the tribes against the Americans ; and that the Shaw- 
nees had joined the coalition, and sent messengers to the 
Cherokees warning them that they should regard all In- 
dians as enemies who did not aid in a war against the 
United States. Captain Craig further reported that a 
party of eighty Creeks, who expected to be largely re-en- 
forced, had crossed the Tennessee, while he was at Chick- 
amauga, to make a raid upon the Cumberland. 

These reports caused serious alarm among the settlers, 
and those most familiar with frontier life regarded them 
as sure precursors of a hostile invasion from the savages. 
It was not long before accounts came in of murders and 
depredations committed in the vicinity of some of the 
remote stations. No less than thirteen were killed in 
the course of a few weeks, among them an entire family 
in the neighborhood of the present town of Gallatin, ex- 
cept one little fellow of about six years, who escaped by 
climbing up the wide chimney, and there secreting him- 
self till the horrid tragedy was over. In his hiding-place 
he heard the dying moans of his father, his mother, and 
his little brother and sisters ; and then, at the end of 
several hours, when all was still, he crept down and out 
into the dark night, and made his way through the 
lonely forest to the nearest station, two miles distant. 
The tale of this little child, thus in one hour orphaned 


and cast alone ujDon the world, sent a thrill of horror 
through all the settlements. Women wept, and clutched 
their children closer to their bosoms ; and strong men 
grasped their rifles, and with deep oaths denounced ven- 
geance upon the accursed Chickamaugas. The murders 
had been committed by a party of about two hundred ; 
doubtless a re-enforcement of the eighty Creeks who had 
been reported upon the war-path ; but, as McGillivray 
had expected, the atrocities were attributed to the bandit 
tribe which had its home in the ^^five lower towns" along 
the Tennessee. 

Another atrocity which occurred at this time served 
to still more inflame the popular feeling. From every 
quarter the settlers were hastening to offer their services 
to Robertson, and among the others were three young 
men who had their home on the Eed River, near the 
present site of Clarksville. Their father was Valentine 
Sevier, that younger brother of John Sevier who, on 
the eve of the battle of Point Pleasant, going out with 
Robertson into the forest before the break of day, to 
shoot game for the breakfast of his company, discovered 
the advancing savages, and gave the alarm which saved 
the American army from destruction. Under his more 
distinguished brother he had fought at King's Mountain, 
and in nearly all of his numerous campaigns against the 
Indians, attaining, before the close of the Revolution, to 
the well-earned rank of colonel. He was still a hale man 
of only forty-five, alert, vigorous, and erect as an Indian ; 
but he had a family of five sons and several daughters 


growing up about him, and to settle them well in life he 
had emigrated to the Cumberland, and built a stockade 
on the very outskirts of the colony, about fifty miles 
from Nashville. Three of his sons were above sixteen ; 
and no sooner did the alarm reach the neighborhood 
than these young men, Robert, William, and Valentine, 
applied to their parents for leave to join the force that 
was gathering to resist the savages. The father did not 
refuse, and the mother said, *'Go, my sons," and then 
she '^ parted from them with a smile and not a tear, 
sending messages to friends at the upper stations." 

Accompanied by a young man named John Price, and 
two or three others, the young Seviers set out in a canoe 
to row up the river to Nashville. They had reached the 
upper end of one of those long convolutions of the Cum- 
berland where the traveler, after rowing twelve or fifteen 
miles, comes round again to about his point of starting, 
when they were fired upon by a large body of savages, 
who, having observed them when they were lower down, 
had crossed the narrow isthmus between the upper and 
lower ends of the bend, and secreted themselves in the 
bushes along the margin of the river. The young men 
fought desperately, but what could they do against, per- 
haps, a hundred Indian rifles ? The low bulwarks of the 
canoe afforded no protection, and in a very few moments 
the three young Seviers were killed, and two of their 
companions desperately wounded. Only Price was left 
unhurt, to shoot the canoe down the stream, and out of 
rifle-range from the savages. What became of the 


wounded is not stated ; but the canoe was soon aban- 
doned, and, floating down the river, was intercepted by 
the Indians who plundered it, and inhumanly scalped 
and mangled its insensible occupants. After wandering 
for a couple of days in the woods and canebrakes, Price 
came to Sevier's station and delivered his heavy news to 
the bereaved parents.* It fell upon them like a thunder- 
bolt. It was the direst calamity that had ever befallen 
any branch of the family. Even at King's Mountain, 
only one of them had been offered up — Robert Sevier, 
the uncle of these young men. But wonderful was the 
stuff these pioneers were made of ! This father, thus 
deprived at one blow of his chief supports, determined 
to stand his ground, and went deliberately about the 
strengthening of his defenses. It was only when he 
wrote to his brother that his grief broke out in one 
simple sentence. *^Send me John" (the general's son) 
he said to him, ^^to come and stay with me, for I have 
now no other sons, but small ones." The stricken 
mother carried that sorrow ever in her heart, and did 
not cast it off, till she went to join her boys in a 
higher life, fifty-two years later, at the great age of a 

This man was not Nolichucky Jack, the beloved of all 

* This incident is related somewhat differently in Haywood's " His- 
tory " ; I have followed the account given in his " Life and Times of James 
Robertson," by A. W. Putnam, who married into the Sevier family, and 
must, therefore, be presumed to have known the correct tradition. 


the people, but he was the brother of his blood, and there 
was something in the very name of Sevier to stir the 
pulses of the border. As men listened to the tale, they 
loaded their rifles and hurried away to Nashville, each 
one bearing some fresh story of Indian atrocity. One 
told of the family of Jason Thompson, near Bledsoe's 
Station, awaking at dead of night only to meet the toma- 
hawk of the savage — the father, mother, and all their 
children, except one well-grown daughter, who was 
spared to be a slave, or even worse, among the Chicka- 
maugas. Another saw as he came past Brown's Station, 
on the southern road, only eight miles below Nashville, 
the bodies of four little children who had been killed 
and scalped in open day, and thrown in a heap together 
near the highway. Another told of a remarkably similar 
atrocity, occurring on the same day, only a few miles 
from Brown's near a spring at Johnson's Station — four 
little brothers and sisters "all scalped and laid upon 
one another ; a heap of children, living and dead." One 
little boy managed to roll himself off the ghastly pile, 
but a more badly wounded little girl was unable to move 
from underneath her dead brother and sister. She re- 
covered, and lived for twenty years, that horrid experi- 
ence ever in her memory. A cherry-tree was planted 
on the spot, and it stands there to-day, a living monu- 
ment to those slaughtered innocents. 

Then came tidings that Dunham's Station, only 
eight miles southwest from Nashville, and less than four 
from Robertson's dwelling, had been sacked and burned, 


and all within it massacred ; and that Colonel Kilpatrick, 
when on the trail of the marauders, had been waylaid, 
scalped, mangled, and beheaded. Among those who 
heard these tales of blood was a man named Radcliff, 
from the neighborhood of Gallatin, who had come to 
Nashville only the day before, to volunteer in defense 
of the settlements. As he stood there listening with 
blanched cheek and a heart wrung with pity for the 
anguish of his neighbors, there came to him one who 
said that, only twelve hours after his leaving home, his 
own house had been broken into, and his young wife and 
three babes slaughtered, and that, when the messenger 
left, they were still lying on the hearth-stone of his dwell- 
ing, weltering in their blood. 

Other tales like these I could tell, but need I relate 
them ? Were these not enough to fire every soul in all 
the settlements with a firm resolve to exterminate the 
savages ? They had this effect ; and all, young men and 
old, clamored now to be led at once against the Chicka- 
maugas. The tall cane still stood thick over all the set- 
tlements, affording a secure retreat for the Indians. 
Broken into small parties as they were, they could not 
be hunted from these hiding-places. The only effectual 
warfare upon them was in their own lairs along the Ten- 
nessee and Chickamauga. Of this Robertson did not 
need to be informed, and he sympathized deeply with the 
feeling of his neighbors ; but his hands were tied. The 
orders of the Government were strict that he should act 
solely on the defensive, and under no circumstances in- 


vade the Indian country so long as negotiations were 
pending with the Spaniards. Of a like character were 
the written instructions of the Governor to the body of 
United States troops which had been sent for the pro- 
tection of the settlements. ''No pursuit," he wrote, "is 
to be continued beyond the ridge dividing the waters of 
Cumberland and Duck Elvers. Patrols and reconnoitring 
parties to be kept out from the stations, in search of, 
and to prevent any further depredations by, the Indians ; 
and in case any Indians should be found lurking or 
skulking about to the northward of the ridge aforesaid, 
in the woods, off any path, or fleeing, to be considered 
and treated as enemies, save only Chickasaws and Choc- 
taws, women and children." These instructions might 
have been effective if carried out by a force about twenty 
times that of the colony, for in that case the savages 
would not have ventured to cross the prescribed bound- 

Robertson made the best dispositions for defense that 
were possible in the circumstances. Every man in the 
settlements was enrolled under efl&cient officers, and, the 
weaker stations being abandoned, a garrison was placed 
in every one of the stronger ones. A force of five hun- 
dred was held in reserve, exempt from special duty, but 
subject to ''a moment's call for any emergency." To 
Captain Rains was given a separate command with which 
to range the woods and canebrakes, and come upon the 
savages in their lurking-places. This troop of mounted 
men was constantly in motion, and many a Creek and 


Cherokee was sent by its unerring rifles to the *^ happy 
hunting-grounds " ; but still the Indians were on every 
by-path and hidden away in every canebrake, and the 
number of murders did not diminish. There were prob- 
ably several thousand savages in and around the settle- 
ments, and thus the numbers killed made no impression 
on the hostilities. Every day brought its tale of blood, 
and soon there was no security except behind the walls 
of the stations. Passing from one station to another 
was never ventured upon unless in considerable num- 
bers. In reality the whole country was in a state of 

Robertson enjoined upon all extreme caution ; but he 
seems to have, now and then, disregarded his own injunc- 
tion, for it is recorded that one day, late in May, he vent- 
ured out on horseback to a spring about half a mile 
from his station, attended only by his oldest son, Jona- 
than. A party of Indians had secreted themselves in the 
near-by woods and canebrakes, and suddenly they fired 
their rifles, wounding Jonathan in the hip, and the gen- 
eral in the arm which held his rifle. His horse rearing 
at the same moment, Eobertson lost his grasp upon the 
weapon, and was himself thrown to the ground, while 
the frightened animal galloped away. At that instant 
the Indians rushed out upon him from their ambush. 
His destruction seemed inevitable ; but, seeing his dan- 
ger, Jonathan, wounded as he was, sprang from his 
horse, and leveled at the two foremost of the savages. 
They fell at his fire ; this brought the rest to a halt, and 


enabled both father and son to get away in safety. The 
ball passed through Kobertson's arm from the wrist to 
the elbow, shattering the bone, and leaving an open 
wound, which rendered the limb useless for years after- 

This narrow escape of their leader startled every soul 
in the settlements. All recognized the fact that Robert- 
son's fall would be the destruction of the colony, and 
knowing well that only an attack upon their own wig- 
wams would drive away the savages, they clamored again 
to be led against the Chickamaugas. But again Rob- 
ertson refused. He chafed at his instructions, told his 
neighbors that he would gladly lead them into the In- 
dian countr}^, but the orders he had were imperative, and 
the first duty of a citizen was to obey his Government. 
They could not know how much any rash action of 
theirs might embarrass Washington in his negotiations 
with the Spaniards. 

In these circumstances some fiery spirits, who could 
not see why veneration for Washington, or consideration 
for the Spaniards, should require them to be shot down 
before their own doorways, determined, in defiance of all 
orders whatever, to invade the Indian country. Gather- 
ing together to the number of about two hundred, under 
Captain John Edmeston — one of that band of heroic 
brothers who had fought so gloriously at Long Island 
•Elats, and King's Mountain — they rashly resolved to go 
npon the desperate expedition. Robertson was confined 
to his house by his wound, but, hearing of the move- 


ment, he sent for the leaders. The result of the inter- 
view was the abandonment of the expedition. It is re- 
markable the control that Eobertson had over these 
border people. It could have arisen from nothing 
but their confidence in his ability to lead, and in his 
unselfish devotion to the real welfare of the com- 

The bloody work went on. Till the cold weather 
came, and drove the Indians back to their wigwams, 
death was everywhere in all the settlements. Though 
many of the savages fell, their numbers seemed to in- 
crease, and in the autumn Robertson discovered that the 
attacking force had been joined by the Shawnees. At 
midnight on the 30th of September, Buchanan's Station, 
only four miles south of Nashville, was attacked by a 
party of about seven hundred, composed partly of 
warriors of that tribe, and partly of Creeks and 

In this fort the families of some twenty- five of the 
settlers had taken refuge, but it was manned at the time 
by only fifteen riflemen, and its four block- houses seemed 
poorly able to resist so overwhelming a force of assailants. 
But among its defenders were the scout Castleman, and 
others of equal skill and bravery. The first alarm was 
given by the frightened cattle, which rushed wildly past 
the fort on the approach of the savages. The night was 
very dark, and, not to waste their powder, the garrison 
withheld their fire till the Indians were within ten paces 
of the buildings. Then a simultaneous discharge burst 


from tlie fort, aud was replied to by a heavy and con- 
stant fire, which the savages kept up for an hour, never 
falling back to a greater distance, though one unbroken 
sheet of flame streamed from the port-holes and mowed 
them down by dozens. 

The Indians had supposed the fort weakly defended, 
but were soon convinced that it was crowded with rifle- 
men. Every second minute a hat would appear at a 
port-hole as if to fire, and an Indian would lodge a bullet 
in its crown, but in another minute another hat would 
appear at the same port-hole, and still the constant fire 
of the fort would go on without a moment's flagging. 
This constant fire, and showing of hats, was subsequently 
explained. More than thirty women were in the fort, 
and a still larger number of children. There were also 
three or four rifles to each one of the garrison. These 
the women loaded and handed with great rapidity up to 
the men, who also were re-enforced by Mrs. Buchanan, 
and several other women, who fired from the port- 
holes like the male defenders. The ^^show of hats" — 
which, from this circumstance, has become a national 
phrase — was made by the children displaying all the 
head-gear in the fort at the port-holes not manned by 
the garrison. 

On several occasions the Indians attempted to set fire 
to the lower logs of the station, but every savage that 
ventured upon the rash act met a bullet from one of the 
bastions. At last a young brave, more bold than the 
rest, climbed to one of the roofs with a lighted torch in 


his hand, to fire a block-house. A well-directed shot 
brought him instantly to the ground underneath one of 
the port-holes. As he lay there, mortally wounded, and 
his life blood fast flowing away, he applied his still burn- 
ing brand to one of the lower logs, and, with his hard- 
returning breath, tried to fan it into a blaze to io-nite 
the building. Suddenly his head fell back, the torch 
dropped from his hand, and was extinguished in a pool 
of his own blood, but with his latest breath he urged 
on his followers. He was a young brave of the ^'Eun- 
ning Water" town of the Chickamaugas, named Chia- 

Inspired by the desperate courage of this young brave, 
a score of savages now rushed forward with lighted brands 
to fire the fort ; but every one was shot down before he 
had ignited the lower logs of the building. Then the 
savage fire grew fiercer, and it became certain death for 
one of the garrison to appear for an instant at any of the 
port-holes, the fire being mainly directed at those open- 
ings. From a space of the circumference of a foot, in 
the roof above the port-hole in the over-jutting, whence 
had proceeded the shots that killed the savages who had 
attempted to approach the walls, thirty Indian bullets 
were on the following day extracted. 

Thus the conflict continued for an hour, when the soli- 
tary swivel at the Nashville fort shouted through the 
woods that rescue was coming. The Indians heard it, 
and knew that it meant that Robertson and his minute- 
men would be upon them by daybreak. Suddenly their 


fire slackened, and they drew off from tbe fort, bearing 
away, as was their custom, their dead and wounded, ex- 
cept such as lay dangerously near to the walls of the sta- 
tion. As they passed out of rifle-range. Captain Eains 
and five of his men rapidly approached the fort on horse- 
back. He had heard the firing at his station two miles 
away, and waiting for no re-enforcements, had hastened 
to the rescue with only the few who were with him at 
the moment. Soon others came in from Nashville and 
the near-by stations, and then the garrison ventured out, 
and examined the ground around the buildings. Every- 
where among the trodden bushes were trails showing 
where the dead had been dragged away, and scattered 
here and there were numerous pools of blood, where 
numbers had fallen, for, packed together as they were, 
the Indians had been a broad mark for the settlers' rifles. 
The slaughter had been terrible. Numbers of the 
wounded died on the retreat, and were buried in the 
forest, where their graves were subsequently discovered 
by the white joeople. 

The leader of the attacking force, a Shawnee chief, 
was killed by the first fire of the garrison, as was also the 
*' White-Man Killer," a brother of the noted Dragging- 
Canoe, formerly head chief of the Chickamaugas. Other 
prominent chiefs of the Creeks and Cherokees fell dur- 
ing the action, and John "Watts, the principal chief of 
the *^ lower towns," and the ablest man now among the 
Cherokees, was so desperately wounded that he besought 
his warriors to end his sufferings by decapitation. Not 


one among the garrison was so mnch as wounded. And 
this successful defense against so overwhelming a force, 
was made by fifteen men and thirty women, battling be- 
hind weak walls for their own lives, and those of their 
children. Is it not true that we need to look no further 
than our own annals to find examples of the most ex- 
alted heroism ? 

Among the first of those who came to the helj^ of the 
besieged garrison was a young man of nineteen, of slender 
build, and in appearance a mere stripling. His name 
was Joseph Brown, and he had been a captive among the 
Chickamaugas. While, with the others, he was examining 
the ground around the fort, he came upon the body of 
the young brave who had been shot from the roof of the 
block-house. He turned the dead face up to the light, 
and, he says : ^'^ I at once recognized my old chum, Ohatt. 
There he lay dead, pierced with balls — shot down into 
his body as he was blowing the coals to set fire to the 
fort." Of this young man I shall have to say more, for 
it was through him that Eobertson was at last enabled to 
subdue the savage Chickamaugas, and bring peace to the 
beleaguered colony along the Cumberland. In reading 
the history of these people, one is forcibly struck with 
the fact that the weak are sometimes chosen to confound 
the strong, and that on what seem slight and accidental 
events often hang results of vital moment and far-reach- 
ing consequences. 

In a very few hours one hundred and eighty men had 
gathered together at the fort, and with them Robertson 


at once set out in pursuit of the retreating savages. But 
the Indians had several hours the start, and had crossed 
the prescribed boundary before they could be overtaken. 
Thus was shown the futility of the orders of the Govern- 
ment. They could not have been better framed if they 
had been intended to erect the settlers into a target, and 
to afford absolute protection to the savages. 



The captivity of Joseph Brown among the Chicka- 
maugas led so directly to the subjugation of that fierce 
and lawless banditti, that it forms an essential part of 
this history. The tribe was composed of the very worst 
elements — red and white — which then existed in the 
Southwestern country. Their towns extended for thirty 
miles along both banks of the Tennessee, from aboye 
Lookout Mountain to below Nick-a-jack Cave, and the 
tribe numbered at this time not far from two thousand 
warriors — the more lawless of the Creeks and Cherokees, 
re-enforced by white criminals escaped from justice, and 
Tory desperadoes who had been driven from the border 
settlements during and after tlie Revolution. Murder 
was their pastime ; plunder their principal means of 

Some of the first settlers of Nashville came into col- 
lision with them, when, under John Donelson, they took 

* A fuller account of these savages is given in " The Rear-Guard of 
the Revolution," pp. 150-154. 


their perilous way down the Tennessee to that remote 
outpost of civilization. It was abreast of the Chicka- 
mauga towns that they lost nearly thirty of their num- 
ber. Time and again Sevier had invaded their strong- 
holds, burned their towns, destroyed their crops, and 
driven the bravest of their warriors like frightened deer 
to the mountains ; but, hiding there in inaccessible re- 
treats, they would abide in absolute security till the 
storm was over, and then would emerge again to the 
daylight, rebuild their birch-bark cabins, and resume 
their barbarous warfare upon the white settlers. 

For eighteen years they were the terror of the entire 
border. Sevier was well-nigh everywhere ; but even his 
sleepless vigilance could not guard every scattered dwell- 
ing. Issuing in small parties, these miscreants would 
fall at midnight upon some unprotected farm-house or 
feebly-defended station, plunder and slay the occupants, 
and be miles away before pursuit could be undertaken. 
For some years their favorite field for depredation had 
been the Cumberland settlements, and, since the destruc- 
tion of Coldwater, their towns had been the thorough- 
fare of the Creeks in their raids upon Robertson. Every 
white man beyond the Alleghanies prayed for vengeance 
upon them, but until their secret haunts among the 
mountains should be discovered, that prayer had to 
remain unanswered. At last, however, came this strip- 
ling, Joseph Brown, to meet this Goliath of Gath, 
and through him the power of the Chickamaugas was 


His father was Colonel James Brown, an officer of the 
North Carolina line during the Revolution, who, for his 
services in the war, had been paid in ** bounty-warrants," 
which he entered for lands on the Duck, Tennessee, and 
Cumberland Rivers. Early in 1788, he resolved to mi- 
grate to a tract he had '* located" about two miles west 
of Nashville, and, the only overland route to that place 
being as yet merely a hunter's trace through the forests 
of Kentucky, he decided to take the river route, of 
nearly two thousand miles, down the Holston and 
Tennessee, and up the Cumberland, which eight years 
before had been followed by the party under John 

Building a stout flat-boat upon the Holston, he em- 
barked in it with his family, consisting of his wife, five 
sons and four daughters, on the 4th of May, 1788. With 
him also were five young men going out to settle in the 
new country, and several negro servants. Two of his 
sons were grown to manhood, and all of the men had 
rifles, and were good marksmen, and, in addition, in the 
stern of the boat was mounted a swivel. Thus well 
armed, the party felt little apprehension of danger from 
the Indians, though they knew that at the time the 
Creeks and Cherokees were waging a war of extermina- 
tion against the French Broad settlers. But this wa» a 
private conflict between the savages and John Sevier, in 
which neither North Carolina nor the United States took 
any interest. It is probable that Colonel Brown for this 
reason concluded that the Chickamaugas would not mo- 


lest a peaceable voyager, who had uo connection with, 
and did not so much as know, the '' Great Eagle of the 
pale-faces. " 

At dawn of the fifth day of his voyage, Colonel Brown 
passed the Indian towns at the mouth of Chickamauga 
Creek, and a little after sunrise was abreast of Tus- 
cagee, a small place opposite the present site of Chatta- 
nooga. There a canoe put out from the shore, and ap- 
proached within short hailing distance of the flat-boat. 
In it were four warriors, one — evidently a chief — an uglj- 
visaged savage of huge proportions, who spoke to Colonel 
Brown in English, and asked to be permitted to come on 
board his boat. Suspecting no harm, the colonel con- 
sented, and the savage after some friendly conversation 
sprang again into his canoe, and paddled to the shore 
whence he came. This was Cutleotoy, the same who 
four years later made his appearance as a sj)y on the 

The treacherous savage at once dispatched swift mes- 
sengers down the river, to apprise the lower towns of the 
approach of the boat, and with orders to plunder it of 
its contents, and murder its occupants. This was done. 
When the boat arrived abreast of Nick-a-jack, one of the 
lower towns, it was suddenly surrounded by a dozen ca- 
noes, each one containing about ten warriors. By strate- 
gem some of the savages succeeded in boarding the boat ; 
and then ensued one of those tragedies so often enacted 
in that dreary solitude, where a kind of spectral horror 
still seems to brood over the desolate mountain-girt river. 


In a few moments the headless body of Colonel Brown 
had sunk to the bottom of the Tennessee, and his older 
sons, and the five other young men, lay dead or dying 
ui3on the shore. The mother, the younger children, and 
the negro servants, were made prisoners. 

The captor of Joseph was a young half-breed brave 
named Chia-chatt-alla, the son of a renegade white man 
by an Indian woman. His Indian wife being dead, this 
white man had married a wretched Frenchwoman, who, 
taken captive near Mobile when a child, had been brought 
up and married among the Chickamaugas. She had be- 
come, as was often the case with white captives, more 
degraded than the native Indians. Joseph was placed in 
charge of the father of Chia-chatt-alla, who led him away 
to his cabin, while his captor returned to secure his share 
of the plunder of the boat. '^ The old man" he writes,* 
"looked much like a half-breed, though he claimed to be 
English or American. His name was Tunbridge," and 
his son was, by the whites, called Tom Tunbridge. " It 
was this Chia-chatt-alla, or Tom Tunbridge, who claimed 
me as his prisoner, and had committed me to the charge 

* At the request of General Zollicofifer, of Nashville, Brown wrote 
out a full narrative of his captivity, and it is copied into Ramsey's 
"Annals of Tennessee," pp. 509-515. He subsequently, at the age of 
eighty-six, gave a narrative, supplementary to the first, to the Tennessee 
Historical Society. The two accounts I have here combined, with, 
to make the narrative clear, additional facts gleaned from other 


of his father. He intended I should make corn for the 
old people, and serye them as a son. 

*^I had been at the old man's house only fifteen or 
twenty minutes, when a very large, corpulent old squaw 
came in, the sweat falling in big drops from her face, 
who appeared very angry, and often looked at me with a 
most threatening countenance. They afterward told me 
that she complained of their attempt to save my life ; 
that they had done very wrong in taking me away, for I 
was large enough to notice everything, and would escape, 
and some day pilot an army there, and destroy them all. 
I did not then consider this prophetic, or ever likely to 
come to pass ; but it did." The old squaw "went on to 
say that all the rest were killed, and that her son would 
be there directly and would kill me, she knew." 

The old squaw's son was Cutleotoy. It was not long 
before he arrived at the cabin, and demanded to know if 
there was a white man there. " No," said Tunbridge, 
who stood in the doorway, as if to prevent his entrance ; 
*^^ there is a bit of a white boy." "The Indian replied 
that he knew how big I was, and that I must be killed. 
The old white man pleaded for my life, saying it was a 
pity to kill women and children ; but the Indian used 
the same argument that his mother had employed, that 
I would get away, and when I grew up pilot an army 
there, and have them all killed. Tunbridge was a Brit- 
ish deserter, who had come to America before the Eevo- 
lutionary War, and had deserted several times, and got at 
length into the Cherokee nation, where he had lived 


eighteen years, and with this wife sixteen years. When 
Ciitleotoy insisted on killing me, old Tun'oridge told him 
I was his son's prisoner, and he was still in town, and 
that I must not be killed. No greater insult could be 
offered Outleotoy, for he was a great man, and did as he 
pleased usually ; while Tuubridge's son was only twenty- 
two years old, and a perfect boy in Cutleotoy's estima- 
tion. Incensed at this insult, he came to Tunbridge 
with his knife drawn and tomahawk raised, and asked 
him if he was going to be the Virginian's friend ; in fact, 
he would have killed him instantly, had Tunbridge ad- 
mitted it. But Tunbridge said ' No,' and, stepping back 
from the door-sill into the house, spoke for the first time 
in English, ' Take him along.' 

'^ Outleotoy, who was a very large, strong Indian, fol- 
lowed in a rage, and came to me with his knife and toma- 
hawk both drawn. But the old woman begged him not 
to kill me in her house. To this he agreed, and, catching 
me by the hand, jerked me up, and out of the house. 
Outside were ten of his men surrounding the house-door, 
and one had in his hand the scalp of one of my brothers, 
and another that of the other men, on a stick. Some 
had their guns cocked, and others their knives and toma- 
hawks drawn, ready to i^ut me to death. I requested 
Tunbridge to beg them to let me have one half hour 
to pray, to which he replied that it was not worth while. 
The old Frenchwoman followed me out, and begged for 
my life. They spurned her away. Then they pulled 
me to one side, and began to strip ofi my clothes, that 


they might not be blooded at mj slaughter. The old 
woman begged them not to kill me there, nor in the road 
that she carried water along, for the road passed by her 
spring. They answered that they would take me to 
Eunning- Water town, as there were no white people 
there, and would have a frolic knocking me over. All 
this was said in Indian, however, and I knew nothing 
of what they discussed. 

** As soon as my clothes were off, I fell on my knees, 
and cried, like the dying Stephen, * Lord Jesus, into thy 
hands I commend my spirit,' expecting every moment to 
be my last The old woman continued her entreaties. 
Finally, she happened to use the proper argument. She 
asked Cutleotoy if he took any of the white men pris- 
oners. He could not say he did. She replied : ' This is 
none of your prisoner. He belongs to my son, Chia- 
chatt-alla. He will avenge the death.' 

'^ Some of the Indians who had come with Cutleotoy, 
then said that he had captured a negro woman, and sent 
her up to Tuscagee already. This aroused the foster- 
mother, who commenced more vehemently to reproach 
him, and then to threaten that, if he killed me, her step- 
son, Chia-chatt-alla, would kill the negro woman. The 
other Indians by this time joined with the woman, say- 
ing that Chia-chatt-alla would be sure to do as she had 
said. And well Cutleotoy might fear him, for, although 
he was only twenty-two years old, Chia-chatt-alla had 
taken the lives of six white men. Now, the thought of 
my being one day a man, and leading an army there, and 


having them killed, had giveii way to avarice, for both 
Cutleotoy and his mother wanted the service of the neo-ro 

''As I knew nothing of what they were saying, I was 
still on my knees, trying to give my soul to God, through 
the merits of the Saviour, and expecting the tomahawk 
every moment. At length, the favor given to Stephen 
in his dying moments came to my mind, how he saw 
the heavens opened, and the blessed Saviour sitting at 
the right hand of God. I opened my eyes, and, looking 
up, saw one of the Indians, as they stood all around me, 
smile ; and then, glancing my eyes round on them, I saw 
that all their countenances were changed from vengeance 
and anger to mildness. This gave me the first gleam of 

''Cutleotoy then called to old Tunbridge to come 
after me, that he loved me, and would not kill me ; the 
other Indians, however, explained the reason of his sud- 
den love to me : it was the negro he loved so much. The 
old squaw, his mother, said she would have some of 
my hair anyhow, and, coming behind me, loosed my hair ; 
it was customary then for young j^eople to wear their 
hair long ; and gathering a lock from the crown of my 
head, with an old dull knife, she cut off a loarcel, and 
kicked me in the side, calling me a poor Virginian. . . . 
My pantaloons were then restored to me, and I was per- 
mitted to return to the cabin." Naturally, the boy's 
heart overflowed with gratitude to the Frenchwoman, 
who had saved his life. He regarded her as an angel 


of mercy ; but gradually she lost in liis eyes some of 
her angelic attributes, and they disappeared altogether 
when one day she told him that she hated the pale- 
faces, and had saved his life only that he might haul 
her wood, plant her corn, and dig her potatoes. 

"The head-man of Nick-a-jack was away that day 
at a beloved town (city of refuge) sixteen miles off, 
called Stecoyee. I understood that he was much dis- 
pleased with their conduct, for he was a man of fine 
mind, and boasted that he had never stained his knife 
in the blood of a white man. . . . His name was Breath. 
He sent for me the second day after I was taken, and 
warned me that some of them would kill me, if I was 
not put into a family, with my hair trimmed like an In- 
dian's, and my face painted. He also said that, as his 
was one of the strongest families in the nation, he would 
receive me into it, directing me to call him ^ uncle,' and 
poor Job (Chia-chatt-alla), ^brother.' On the same day, 
the 11th of May, 1788, he bored holes in my ears, cut off 
my hair, leaving only a scalp-lock on the top of my head, 
and taking off my pantaloons, gave me a flap and short 
shirt, pulling open the collar and putting a small brooch 
in my bosom. 

'^Then I returned to Tunbridge's cabin, who also 
told me I was one of his family, must call him * uncle,' 
and Tom Tunbridge, ^brother.' On the next day I was 
turned out to hoe corn in the broiling sun. By noon, 
my forehead and ears, and the back of my head, and my 
neck and thighs, were all blistered with the heat , but 


the Lord was good, and, when I was sick with sunburns, 
sent a thunder-cloud and drove us all out of the field. 
The next day it rained all day, and the third day I was 
able to go to the field again." 

After this he did all sorts of slavish work in heat and 
cold, often fainting with fatigue and hunger, and sick at 
heart with thinking of his wretched mother, and his hap- 
less little brother and sisters, captives, he knew not 
where, among those ruthless savages. But at length he 
learned that two of his sisters, aged five and ten, were in 
the family of a Spanish trader in the same town of Nick- 
a-jack, and that the trader's wife was willing he should 
visit them. This he did, and there learned that his 
mother, a younger brother, aged nine, and two younger 
sisters, had been sent away to the Creek towns on the 
Tallapoosa River ; and all but one of the captured 
negroes to the Cherokee towns among the Smoky 
Mountains. He did not then know that his mother 
had endured almost incredible hardships, been driven 
on foot by the Creeks two hundred miles, and not 
allowed to stop to take the gravel from her shoes, though 
her feet were blistering and suppurating ; and that at 
her journey's end she had been subjected to the brutality 
of a Creek chief, who had made her his slave. 

When the boy thought calmly of his own situation, 
and of that of his mother and little brother and sisters, 
the prospect seemed hopeless ; but still there kept con- 
tinually recurring to him the words of Cutleotoy and his 
old hag of a mother : '' He is old enough to notice every- 


thing, and some day he will escape, and pilot an army 
here, and destroy us all ! " Again and again the words 
came to him, till it became his controlling thought that 
his life had been saved that he might be the instru- 
ment of bringing a just retribution upon the Chicka- 

This idea fixed in his mind, he went about his heavy 
tasks cheerfully, but keeping his eyes and ears widely 
open. He learned the Cherokee language, and was 
docile and obedient, in order to gain the confidence of 
his captors, and thereby discover the secret haunts to 
which they fled when Sevier swept down upon them like 
a whirlwind. The old chief Breath, lived near the now 
famous cave of Nick-a-jack, and Joseph was often sent to 
him on errands ; and there he learned that this cavern 
was the principal hiding-place of the Chickamaugas 
when hard pressed by their enemies. Two hundred men 
posted at its entrance could, he was told, defy an assault 
from ten thousand, and the cave was spacious enough to 
shelter the whole Cherokee nation. Evidently, the only 
way to fight the Chickamaugas was to approach, their 
strongholds from the west, and thus cut off their retreat 
to this cavern. 

Joseph was satisfied that he had discovered the secret 
that would destroy the Chickamaugas, and earnestly he 
now longed for deliverance from his captivity. He was 
patient, but as the winter approached his tasks grew 
almost too hard to bear. ** I suffered very much," he 
says, '^from the cold, and my exposure in cutting wood, 


and taking care of a few cattle and horses. I had to 
hunt after them in the cane and wood, and over the 
rough and steep hills, almost mountains. I heard that 
General Sevier, old ' Ohucky Jack,' as the Indians called 
him, was fighting the Indians, and destroying their towns 
at a fearful rate.* The Indians had a great reverence 
for him, and yet a great dread of his mode of warfare." 
At last he heard "that the ^old general' had surprised 
the towns on Coosa River (in Georgia), killed a large 
number of warriors, and captured forty or fifty of their 
women and children. Thereupon the Indians proposed 
an exchange of prisoners. Here was my chance for de- 
liverance. They, however, opposed my exchange, on the 
score of my coming from North Carolina. They said 
the East Tennesseeans had no right to demand me. But 
the head-man of the Indians (on the Coosa Eiver) said 
that Governor Sevier ' was so contrary that he could do 
nothing with him ' ; that he, the Governor, had pos- 
session of his daughter, and therefore I must be re- 

"In a few weeks more there was a runner sent after 
us to come to Running- Water town, and when we 
reached Nick-a-jack town, I found there the Indian who 
had my little sister, having just returned from his hunt, 
bringing his wife and my little sister. The old squaw 
seemed to think as much of her as though she had been 

* An account of this raid of Sevier's on the Coosa is given in " John 
Sevier, the Commonwealth-Builder," p. 195. 


her own child. The little girl was stripped of all her 
finery, it is true ; but she was only five years old, and 
when I told her I was going to take her to her own 
mother, she i'an to the old Indian woman, and caught 
her round the neck, so that I had to take her by force, 
and carry her twenty or thirty yards. Then, telling her 
that she should go to see her own mother, I set her down, 
and led her by the hand. My eldest sister was at another 
place, a child of ten years old. 

" We got to Running Water about three o'clock, and 
found that the head-man from the upper towns had come 
after us. The old head-man of Nick-a-jack (Breath) 
grumbled at giving us up, as we did not belong to Hol- 
ston. The old Indian who had come for us said that 
was all true, but that Little John (their name for Gov- 
ernor Sevier) was so mean and ugly that he could do 
nothing with him. This word ugly is their hardest term 
of abuse. He went on to say that ^ Little John ' declared 
he would not let one of their people free, unless he got 
all the whites who were in the nation, naming those 
taken from the boat particularly. This settled it, and 
my exchange followed, as well as that of my two sisters. 
I was indebted to Governor Sevier for my liberty, as also 
were my two sisters for theirs. We got back to the resi- 
dence of an uncle in Pendleton County, South Carolina, 
after a captivity of eleven months and fifteen days. At 
this time my weight was only eighty pounds, though I 
was in my seventeenth year." 

But his mother, and little brother and sisters, were 


still captives among the Creeks, and, having none of that 
nation among his prisoners, Sevier could do nothing to 
secure their liberation. Mrs. Brown's treatment by her 
captor soon became so intolerable that she fled for pro- 
tection to McGillivray, and it is a pleasure to state that 
the Creek chief now showed himself possessed of the 
common feelings of humanity. He ransomed the un- 
happy woman from her savage owner, and soon afterward 
did a like service to her daughters. Then he sent them 
to their friends in South Carolina, refusing all compen- 
sation for his kind offices, and promising to restore the 
little son as soon as he could prevail upon his owner to 
allow him to be liberated. This he at length succeeded 
in doing, and thus showed that, though he might be 
''very far gone from original righteousness," he was not 
" wholly given over to evil." 

Once more among friends and with his mother, and 
brother and sisters about him, Joseph Brown grew rapid- 
ly in strength, and before he was nineteen had attained 
to the stature of manhood. He was far away from sav- 
age life, in an old and well-ordered community ; but yet 
those words of Cutleotoy were ever in his mind, and still 
he dreamed of one day being the instrument of the ven- 
geance of God upon the accursed slayers of so many of 
his kindred. But he kept his thoughts to himself, for 
experience had taught him to be silent, and patient and 
wary. So he waited till he had grown to the stature of 
manhood, before he proposed to his mother to carry 
out his father's intention of settling on their lands in the 


vicinity of Nashville. This done he would be within 
striking distance of the Chickamaugas. 

They traveled overland to the Cumberland, and on 
his father's lands, two miles west of Nashville, the boy, 
not yet nineteen, built a cabin, and assumed the duties 
of head of the family. Soon the Chickamaugas were 
marauding over the country ; and early on the morning 
of October 1, 1792, word was brought to him that 
they were besieging Buchanan's Station, about five miles 
away. Seizing his rifle he hurried to the fort, and there 
at the gateway, as I have related, he came upon the life- 
less body of the man at whose hands he had borne so 
much wrong and indignity — Chia-chatt-alla. 

Now the youth thought himself old enough to take a 
part in the bloody drama that was being enacted every- 
where about him. He joined in the fruitless pursuit of 
the savages after the attack at Buchanan's, and, either in 
going or returning, came in contact with Kobertson, and 
told him that he knew the secret fastnesses of the Chicka- 
maugas, and could guide an army to their rear which 
might effect their destruction. Robertson heard him 
gladly^ but shook his head, saying he could do nothing. 
The orders of Government were imperative that both he 
and Sevier should act strictly upon the defensive, and 
under no circumstances again invade the Indian country. 
Spain was in close alliance with the Creeks and Chero- 
kees. An attack upon them might provoke a collision 
with her, and for that the infant republic was not pre- 
pared, while all the wisdom and prudence of Washing- 


ton were required to avoid another war with Great 

Denied thus the work on which his heart was set, 
young Brown volunteered in Captain Eains's corps of 
rangers, and for the time devoted himself to the defense 
of the settlements. 



For two more years there was mourning in every 
household along the Cumberland — mothers weeping for 
sons, and wives for husbands, who had gone out in the 
morning hale and strong, only to be borne back at night, 
scalped and mutilated by the savages. The prowling 
miscreants were beside every spring and hid in every 
canebrake. If a stump were left standing within range 
of a station, an Indian rifle was there, to greet the 
settler with death on his going forth in the morning. 
The fields lay waste, for it was no longer safe to till the 
ground, or even to give the cattle necessary attention. 
The whole settlement was housed in fortified stations, 
and intercourse between neighbors was carried on only 
by patrols, or under their j^rotection. It becoming neces- 
sary for Robertson to meet the Governor, he had to 
make the eight days' journey to Knoxville with an escort 
of twelve men, heavily armed, and mounted on the fleet- 
est horses in the district. Such a reign of terror had not 
existed since the early days of the colony. 


Perhaps five Indians fell for every one of the settlers ; 
but, still, the losses were severe enough to have led any 
peoi^le but these, and any leader except Robertson, to 
the total abandonment of the settlements. The *'Knox- 
ville Gazette," which had been established in 1791, 
devoted a column regularly to disasters on the Cum- 
berland, and in every issue, after September, 1793, in 
leaded tyj^e, appeared in it the following paragraph : 
*' The Creek nation must be destroyed, or the south- 
western frontiers, from the mouth of St. Mary's to the 
western extremities of Kentucky and Virginia, will be 
incessantly harassed by them. Delenda est." The deaths 
had, not infrequently, numbered ten in a fortnight. 
Not a score were now left alive of the two hundred 
and fifty-six original settlers, who, in 1780 signed 
the first ^'compact of government" in the fort at 
Nashville. After diligent inquiry I can ascertain only 
fifteen, and their names are herewith given, as worthy 
of mention for the heroic fortitude with which, for 
twelve years, they had stood their ground while death 
and havoc were all around them. The names are, James 
Eobertson, John Rains, John Donelson Jr., Isaac Bled- 
soe, Casper Mansker, John Blackmore, Andrew Ewing, 
Samson Williams, Thomas Edmeston, Mereday Rains, 
Jacob and Abraham Castleman, Daniel Radcliff, John 
Montgomery, and John Cowan. David Hood is the 
only one of the original number who is recorded as hav- 
ing, after the first year, died a natural death. Doubt- 
less others made as peaceful an exit from that furnace 


of fire ; but the vast majority went out of this world 
while engaged in a life-and-death struggle with a savage 
enemy. And what is singular is, that the fifteen sur- 
vivors were those who had most freely exposed 
themselves to danger, and been most conspicuous in the 
defense of the settlements. But unmoved amidst that 
human holocaust stood that man of iron, Robertson, 
not seeing the end, not knowing but he might be cut 
down in the struggle, but resolved to hold his post 
because the duty had been laid upon him by the great 

It is not pleasant to read of deeds of human slaughter, 
nor is it an agreeable task to write about them. I would 
gladly omit them altogether, and shall do so, except so 
far as may be necessary to afford a true picture of the 
time, and a correct portrayal of the characters in this 

The first name on this year's roll of death is that of 
Evan Shelby, that brother of Isaac Shelby who received 
the British commander's sword at King's Mountain. 
He had settled on the Cumberland when his elder 
brother removed to Kentucky. He was returning from 
the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville), when his boat was 
waylaid by the savages, and he and all those with him, 
except his brother Moses, were killed. The next name of 
note is that of Isaac Bledsoe, the long-time friend of Eob- 
ertson, and one of the earliest explorers and settlers on 
the Cumberland. He had gone just outside of his sta- 
tion, in the early morning, and was shot down before the 


eyes of his wife and children. Not long afterward a son 
of his brother was killed in a similar manner ; and then 
another son of Anthony, and a son of Isaac, as they 
were returning from school with a faithful negro. The 
negro was made a captive, but the boys, resisting stout- 
ly, were inhumanly butchered. Soon after these murders 
the widow of Anthony Bledsoe was pursued and fired at 
when passing under escort from one station to another. 
She was saved by the scout Castleman, who heroically 
kept the party of savages at bay till she was out of 
range of their bullets. 

The next blow was to fall upon Castleman. Three of 
his brothers were killed, and one was wounded, all at one 
time, and within sight of his station, a short distance 
from Nashville. Robertson still enjoined upon the set- 
tlers a defensive warfare, and the ''^resignation and for- 
bearance inculcated by the Government," but Castleman 
now demanded permission to carry the war into the 
enemy's country. Sympathizing with his losses, Eob- 
ertson allowed him to take his own measures for retalia- 
tion. Hastily gathering fifteen volunteers he i:>ursued 
the marauding party as far as the Tennessee, but failing 
to come up with them, or to ''kill any Indians worth 
naming," he proposed to his little company to cross the 
river and invade the Indian villages. Ten of the men 
declined the hazardous enterprise, and turned their faces 
homeward. The rest— "five brave fellows, all good 
shots " — painted and disguised as savages, went with Cas- 
tleman. They crossed the Tennessee near the town of 


Nick-a-jack, intending to proceed to a smaller town 
lower down the river, but before they had gone far they 
came upon a party of fifty Creeks seated carelessly upon 
the ground, arrayed in war-paint, and evidently about 
to go upon the war-^Dath. Castleman and his men were 
so well disguised that no hostile intention was suspected 
by the Creeks till they had come within short rifle 
range. Then the veteran scout and his five compan- 
ions leveled their rifles, took deliberate aim, and fired 
into the circle of savages. Six of the Indians fell dead, 
two at one discharge of Castleman's gun, which was 
double-shotted for the occasion. The savages broke at 
once into the woods, panic-striken at the sudden and 
unexpected fire, and in the confusion the little party of 
whites made their way across the Tennessee, and thence 
rapidly homeward. To appreciate the boldness of this 
exploit it needs to be understood that it was jDerformed 
in the very heart of the Chickamauga towns, where 
not less than two thousand warriors were within short 
rallying distance. 

An achievement quite as heroic was about this time 
performed by William Hall, the friend of Anthony Bled- 
soe, at Greenfield Station. The station was the ordinary 
stockade inclosing a few log-houses, in which five white 
men, four negroes, and about twenty women and chil- 
dren, had their homes. It being the planting season, 
the negroes went daily to work in the adjacent fields, 
under guard of two or three of the whites as sentinels 
and lookouts, and all assembled at night in the station 


for protection. On this occasion a large party of In- 
dians had before day formed an ambuscade in the woods 
near the fort, and between it and the cleared fields. 
The negroes went out early to their work, and the sav- 
ages allowed them to remain unmolested until they were 
about to attach their horses to the plows. Then they 
arose from ambush, and, sounding the unearthly war- 
whoop, discharged their guns upon the negroes. Hall, 
and his four companions, were in the fort with their 
rifles loaded, and, hearing the war-whoop, they rushed 
out upon the rear of the savages. Hall had lost a 
father and two brothers, and one of his companions a 
father, mother, and also two brothers, at the hands of 
the Indians, and they were nerved for a desperate 
encounter. The odds were twenty to one against 
them, but, not pausing to count their numbers, they 
sounded the Tennessee yell, and rushed upon the sav- 
ages, discharging their rifles. Disconcerted by the 
sudden attack, the Indians fell back to a fence, be- 
hind which they made a stand, having discovered the 
small number of their assailants. Meanwhile the 
whites had reloaded, and, shouting back to the de- 
fenseless women and children at the station, **Come 
on, twenty of you, and we'll fix them ! " they poured 
upon them again the contents of their rifles, killing 
four of the savages. It is probable that some of the 
Indians understood the words, for they at once fell 
back, and made good their retreat with the settlers' 
horses, and their own killed and wounded. One of the 


whites was killed, and one of the negroes mortally 

The next blow fell upon Robertson. Murders had 
been daily committed almost within sight of his station, 
and soon another of his sons fell by the tomahawk of the 
savages. Shortly afterward one of his workmen was 
killed and scalped in a field near his dwelling, and Rob- 
ertson ordered a party of twenty to pursue the murderers. 
With them went Jonathan, his oldest son, now a young 
man of twenty-four, who, says Haywood, *^had many a 
brush with the savages, always returning as good as was 
sent." They soon struck the trail of the Indians, and 
discovered that they had with them several horses, prob- 
ably well laden with stolen property. Their route was 
southwest, toward the Tennessee, and this convinced the 
pursuers that they were returning to their homes ; there- 
fore, they pressed rapidly on, to overtake them before 
they should cross the river. In this they were success- 
ful, coming up with the band after a pursuit of a hun- 
dred and twenty miles, as they were going into camp for 
the night on the bank of the Tennessee, where a low 
ridge juts out into the water. Here they had built a 
large signal-fire to give notice of their approach to their 
friends on the opposite side of the river, and were 
firing off an occasional gun, apparently with the same 

Approaching cautiously under cover of the cane, 
young Robertson, and the captain of the volunteers, 
reconnoitred the encampment. They counted eleven 


warriors and five women in the party, so posted that 
they could be completely hemmed in, with no way of 
escape except by the river, which there was broad, and 
deep, and rapid. This much discovered, the two crei)t 
back to their men, and all made their beds in the cane 
till just before the break of day, when they moved 
silently forward to inclose the savages, a few of the men 
posting themselves at the water's edge, on either flank, to 
cut off any who might attempt to escape by the river. 
Soon some of the savages rose and began to move about, 
and at this signal the whites discharged their rifles. 
Two or three of the warriors were shot down as they 
plunged into the river, the rest fell where they had slept, 
and with them three of the women, shot down by the 
bullets aimed at their husbands. '^A cleaner sweep 
than this," says the old chronicle, *'had not been made 
since the country was settled." 

Another of Jonathan Robertson's exploits may as well 
be related, inasmuch as it affords a vivid idea of the state 
of things then existing around his father's dwelling. lie 
had been but a few days returned from this expedition, 
when he had what he termed ''a very nice little skir- 
mish." With three lads, aged from ten to fourteen, 
the sons of John Cowan, one of the few survivors of the 
original settlers, he had gone out on a short hunt in the 
vicinity of his father's station. He was armed with a 
rifle, and each of the lads had a shot-gun. They had se- 
cured some game, and were returning home through an 
open wood, when one of the boys observed something 


stirring in a near-by clump of bushes, and leveled his 
gun at the object. His attention attracted by the boy's 
movement, the quick eye of Robertson detected the 
gleaming of a rifle-barrel in the edge of the bushes. 
Calling out, '' Indians ! To a tree, boys — to a tree ! " he 
took at once to the nearest cover. At the word two of 
the lads sprang behind two distinct trees, the other lad 
taking shelter with Robertson. The tree was too small 
to cover the bodies of both, and, one of the savages firing 
instantly, the young lad received a ball in his thigh. 
Thinking him more badly wounded than he was, Robert- 
son told him to *Mie low." ^^I'm not much hurt," said 
the young hero, straightening himself up, and giving the 
Indians the contents of his shot-gun. In his anxiety to 
get a sight upon one of the savages, Robertson exposed 
his head for an instant, and in that instant an Indian 
ball passed through his hat just above his ear. His 
hat fell off, and the slight concussion forced him to 
take a step forward, but in that position he got a clear 
view of the Indian, and gave him a bullet. By this 
time the lad had reloaded his gun, and, catching it up, 
Eobertson sent another bullet among the Indians, and 
then another, four in rapid succession, the lad loading 
about as fast as he fired. Meanwhile, the other boys had 
joined in the firing, and then the Indians broke from 
cover, and fled toward some thicker undergrowth at a 
short distance, Robertson and his three young soldiers 
pursuing and firing upon them, till they were concealed 
by dense bushes into which it was not prudent to enter. 


Then Kobertson called off the intrepid boys, and they 
marched homeward with their game and shot-guns upon 
their shoulders. In his rapid flight one of the Indians 
left his gun behind him, and it was observed that several 
wounded were borne into the undergrowth. A few days 
afterward the dead bodies of two of the savages were 
found upon the ground. 

But intrepidity among these people was not confined 
to men and boys ; it was possessed in as decided a de- 
gree by the women, as was shown in the share they had 
taken in the heroic defense of Buchanan's Station. Their 
daily experience of peril brought this quality into con- 
stant exercise, and numerous are the instances when 
their presence of mind and cool courage warded off de- 
struction or disaster from the stations. Did space per- 
mit, many such instances might be related ; the one I 
select is peculiar only because of the great age of the 
heroine. She was known throughout the settlements as 
'^Grandma Hays," and she was the mother of Colonel 
Eobert Hays, a brave and active officer who was out on 
the Coldwater expedition with Eobertson. She lived 
with another son, Captain Samuel Hays, at what was 
known as Hays's Fort, which stood about a mile east of 
the Hermitage, and a short distance south of the Her- 
mitage church. Her older son had married a daughter 
of John Donelson, and thus was a brother-in-law to An- 
drew Jackson. Her younger son, Samuel, had gone one 
spring morning, in 1793, to the station of the younger 
John Donelson, about two miles distant, and while there, 


standing near the gateway, had been shot down by the 
savages. Soon afterward all of Mrs. Hays's negroes were 
captured and run off, and she was thus left with not a 
soul about her but a half-witted cripple, named Tim Dun- 
bar, who cultivated her garden and did the menial offices 
of the household. One morning in Sei3tember, when this 
man was at work just outside the stockade, Mrs. Hays 
heard the report of several guns, and a moment later 
Dunbar came rushing into the station, leaving the gate 
open, and crying out at the top of his voice : ** Murder ! 
I'm killed ! I'm killed ! " Saying this, he fell in a heap 
upon the floor. ^' You frightened fool," said Mrs. Hays 
to him, ^' you're not hurt. If you were, you couldn't hal- 
loo so. Get up, take your gun, and come with me. Be 
quick, before they have time to reload ! " Thus aroused, 
the man rose and followed the aged lady to the gateway. 
Having secured the gate, each of them, rifle in hand, took 
a position whence they could watch the surrounding 
woods. Soon they caught sight of a party of Indians 
secreted in the neighboring undergrowth, and, taking 
deliberate aim, they gave them the contents of their 
rifles. The Indians responded by a general discharge, 
which wounded only the walls of the station. They 
kept this up for a time ; but Mrs. Hays deigned no reply, 
reserving her fire for a nearer approach of the savages. 
This they did not attempt, being probably deceived as to 
the strength of the garrison. The firing was heard by 
the neighbors, and, thinking '^Grandrfia Hays" to be in 
danger, they hurried to her relief, but before they could 


arrive the Indians bad departed. The fire of the old 
lady and her servant probably wounded some of tlie 
savages, for blood-stains were found among the under- 
brush into which they discharged their rifles. It was 
with difficulty that the neighbors prevailed upon Mrs. 
Hays to then abandon her castle, and take up more 
secure quarters at Mansker's Station. 

The young man, Joseph Brown, soon had some ex- 
perience of Indian warfare. He had occasion to visit 
the Holston settlements, and, the road being infested 
with Indians, he timed his return so as to be accom- 
panied by the mail-rider, Thomas Ross, and Colonel 
Caleb Friley. They journeyed in safety till on the even- 
ing of the third day, when they were approaching the 
east bank of the Little Laurel River. Here they were 
suddenly fired upon by a considerable body of savages 
from the two sides of the hunters' trace they were 
pursuing. Putting spurs to their horses they dashed 
into the river, and got away in safety. They were pro- 
ceeding at a slower pace, and congratulating themselves 
upon their fortunate escape, when they rode unex- 
pectedly into the midst of a still larger body of sav- 
ages. At once they were targets for scores of rifles. 
Ross was instantly killed, and Friley and Brown 
wounded, the latter in the arm, and so severely that 
for long afterward the limb was useless, and splin- 
ters of exfoliated bone discharged themselves from the 
shoulder. ^ 

These mail-riders led a most precarious existence. A 

25C) adya:s^ce-guard of western civilization. 

few weeks after the death of Ross, Nathaniel Teal arrived 
at Nashville with the mail from Natchez. Having de- 
livered his bags at the office, he rode out and spent the 
night with Robertson, at his station, five miles from 
Nashville. Returning on the following morning, he was 
waylaid and killed by the Indians when less than a mile 
from Robertson's dwelling. Two companies of horsemen 
were at once dispatched in pursuit of the savages, and, 
though his wound was still unhealed, young Brown was 
among the first to volunteer for the expedition. At the 
end of five days the savages were come up with on the 
northern bank of the Tennessee. Alarmed by the sound 
of the approaching horsemen, they scattered into the 
neighboring canebrakes, and only six were killed, but 
one of these fell by a shot from young Brown's 

The foregoing incidents afford an imperfect impres- 
sion of the state of things then existing along the Cum- 
berberland ; but they give no idea of the number of 
lives lost in the conflict. This can not be stated with 
accuracy, but it is safe to say there was a death in nearly 
every household. It is not strange that the people chafed 
at the policy of the Government, which restricted them 
from pursuing offensive measures, the only warfare that 
would put a stop to the raids of the savages. The dis- 
content was universal, and, had not Robertson been a 
fellow-sufferer with the rest, it is not conceivable how he 
could have restrained the fury of the people. As it was, 
they daily clamored to be led to the destruction of the 


Chickamaugas. From every little hamlet where ten men 
could be got together, they sent up petitions to this effect 
to Eobertson. '^^We are loyal to the authority of Con- 
gress," they said, ''but Congress can not know the 
wrongs we endure ; if it did, it would allow no fear of 
Spain to hold us back from vengeance on our savage ene- 
mies." One of these petitions, which expresses the sen- 
timents of them all, is here subjoined. It shows the firm 
regard of these people for law, and their desire to sub- 
mit to it, even under the terrible provocations they daily 
endured. It was addressed to Eobertson as commandant 
of the district. It says : 

^'Your petitioners, having convened together at the 
request of the distressed part of Tennessee County, in 
order to set forth their grievances and to pursue some 
method for their relief, beg leave to represent to you, sir, 
that they have much to dread from the Indians as the 
spring season approaches. The recent murders and rav- 
ages committed by them on our frontiers too evidently 
prove their intentions in this quarter. We already feel 
the effects of the navigation of the river being shut up, 
by which means we shall be deprived of the very neces- 
sary article, salt, that article having already risen in its 
price. Immigration to this country by water must fre- 
quently cease. We also beg leave to assure you that the 
frontiers will break up unless some speedy method is 
taken to secure them from the inroads of the savages, 
which must be followed by the most fatal consequences. 
We are much afraid, sir, that Government has not vested 


their officers in this country with authority to carry an 
expedition against any nation or Tillage of Indians. Yet 
we are confident that something must be done with the 
Indians that do the mischief on our frontiers. We are 
willing to pursue every lawful means to procure peace 
and tranquillity among us. Therefore, we beg leave to 
suggest to you ... to make a full representation of our 
distressed situation and grievances to Governor Blount. 
. . . We have confidence that you will do all in your 
power to relieve the distresses of the people under your 

Robertson fully sympathized with these appeals from 
the settlers. Previous to the receipt of these petitions, 
he had proposed to resign his position in the United 
States Army, in order that he might be free to conduct 
an offensive war against the savages, and destroy the 
towns whence the marauders proceeded ; but to this sug- 
gestion the Governor had replied: ^'1 notice what you 
say about your resignation, and the object of it ; delay it, 
the time is not yet." Then again he enjoined upon his 
friends and neighbors, patience. He reminded them 
that North Carolina had long treated them in a worse 
way, but they had survived it ; that the machinery of 
government was yet new, and the settlements were 
at a great distance from the central power ; and 
they were enjoying many advantages they had not 
known before the organization of the territorial govern- 

^^ There seemed a combination of influences within 


the United States against affording aid in men or money 
to these besieged settlements. The Treasury Depart- 
ment greatly dreaded expenditures. The War Depart- 
ment was making preparations for another grand army 
in the Northwestern Territory. The Department of 
State watched with keenest eye onr foreign and domestic 
affairs, and was exceedingly distrustful of, and opposed 
to, every appropriation and measure which might embar- 
rass negotiations then pending, or accumulate difiBculties 
in the way of such as it was desired to engage in at some 
not very distant day."* 

The principal obstacle arose from the State Depart- 
ment, for the settlers could have dispensed with aid in 
either men or money, and made no complaint at the 
withdrawal of the small force of Government troops 
when their term of service expired in October, 1792. 
They only asked to be themselves allowed to invade the 
Indian country. This Government refused, because the 
State Department was cajoled by the deceitful diplomacy 
of the Spaniards into the belief that the United States 
could soon peaceably acquire the navigation of the Mis- 
sissippi, but which it is now known Spain had no inten- 
tion of granting on any conceivable conditions. As late 
as March 8, 1803, Daniel Clark, who was in the confi- 
dence of the Spanish officials, wrote to James Madison, 
then Secretary of State, that " expectations of assistance 
from ourselves against our own Government have been 

* Putnam's " History of Middle Tennessee," p. 407. 

260 adva;n'ce-guard of western civilization. 

always relied on by the Spaniards, and they have con- 
stantly looked to a division of our Western States from 
our General Government."* In these expectations the 
Spaniards were encouraged by the treasonable represen- 
tations of General Wilkinson, now an officer of the 
United States Army, but still in active correspondence 
with Gayoso, and the Baron de Carondelet, who had 
succeeded Miro as Governor of Louisiana. Hence, there 
was no hope of Spain concluding a satisfactory treaty 
with the United States. She was merely holding ^' the 
word of promise to the ear," till Western events should 
be ripe for the dismemberment of the Union. 

In the summer of 1793, intelligence came to the Cum- 
berland of an event which, it was at first supposed, would 
lessen the savage warfare that was waged against the set- 
tlements. This was the death of McGillivray, which had 
occurred in the Creek nation in the previous February. 
His loss was greatly deplored by the Spaniards, who re- 
garded him as a most efficient instrument for their pur- 
poses. As early as April, 1786, Navarro had written to 
the Spanish ministry, *^So long as we shall have this 
chief on our side, we may rely on having established, 
between the Florid as and Georgia, a barrier which it will 
not be easy to break through." This barrier would, 
doubtless, have now been broken down, and the coalition 
which McGillivray had succeeded in forming with the 
Cherokees and Shawnees have fallen to pieces, had not 

* Quoted in Wilkinson's " Memoirs," vol. ii, p. 140. 


Miro been succeeded by Carondelet, a far more energetic 
man, and much less scrupulous as to the means he used 
for Spanish aggrandizement. 

This gentleman no sooner assumed his oflBce on De- 
cember 30, 1791, than he set zealously to work to form 
new alliances with the savages, and to strengthen the old 
ones ; and from doing this he was not deterred by the 
fact that he was thereby invading the rights and pre- 
rogatives of the American Government. The Indians 
dreaded the rapid advance of the Americans, and their 
constant fear was that they might at some future time 
strip them of their lands. It became now one of the chief 
points of Spanish policy to keep this fear alive, and to 
excite among the savages jealousy, distrust, and hatred of 
the Americans, and to inspire them with the feeling that 
'^the great king of the Spains" could and would protect 
them against their encroachments. This Carondelet said 
in express terms to Indians occupying American terri- 
tory, and he further conciliated their good-will by large 
donations to the tribes, and regular pensions to the most 
influential of the chieftains. Had Spain been at open 
war with the United States, he could not have proceeded 
in any more hostile manner. The result was, that the 
savages came to regard the Americans as their natural 
enemies, and to look to the King of Spain as their legiti- 
mate protector. 

The sense of wrong felt by the savages made them as 
tinder to which a spark only need be applied to produce 
a conflagration. McGillivray was no sooner dead, than 


Carondelet applied this spark by sending his agents 
among the Cherokees. The Creek chief had been the 
active manager for Spain, but now the Spanish Governor 
assumed personal control of affairs with the savages, and 
they lost nothing in energy by the change of directors. 
Within less than two months from the death of McGilli- 
vray, the Spanish agents got together a grand council of 
the Cherokees, from which proceeded the following talk 
addressed to Gayoso, the Governor of Natchez. The 
paper was, of course, of Spanish concoction, but it was 
signed and adopted as their own by the principal 
chiefs of the Cherokees. Its sole purpose was to 
commit the whole nation to an active warfare upon 

The paper first complains bitterly of the ungenerous 
method by which, it said, the Americans had appropri- 
ated to themselves the dwelling-lands of the Indians, and 
then says : *' The passion of the Americans for establish- 
inof themselves on the lands of the Indians is too well 
known to you to need explanation. In a word, since 
they, by fraudulent means, have usurped the lands of the 
Indians, the nation universally reclaims and insists to 
preserve its ancient limits on which they agreed with the 
British. They pray you to employ all your force to ob- 
tain from his Majesty this favor, if it be possible ; and if 
it can not be obtained, they insist that the settlement at 
Cumberland shall he removed at all events. Without 
this, nothing will satisfy the Cherokees and Talpuches 


"Cumberland was settled toward the conclusion of 
the last war by a certain Robertson, and some compan- 
ions of his, who, concealing their journey and designs, 
took possession by force of those lands. Perhaps the 
Americans will make it appear that they possess them by 
free and lawful treaties ; but it is not so. . . . 

" Robertson and his companions are the real and true 
cause that so much blood has been spilled ; and the con- 
fusion which has subsisted, and still subsists, is owing 
entirely to this settlement ; and while it remains in this 
place there is no hope of a solid peace. 

"This settlement taken away, the Cherokee nation 
declares that it does not desire to be an enemy of the 
Americans ; it declares, moreover, that it does not enter- 
tain this solicitude from caprice or pique ; and that they 
never questioned the legality of their treaties under the 
British Government." 

Carondelet had now engaged the Cherokees in the 
fight against Robertson. It only remained to bring the 
Choctaws and Chickasaws into the savage coalition to 
girdle the Cumberland settlements with a fire in which 
they would be inevitably consumed, unless rescued by 
speedy aid from the United States. And of this aid 
what hope was there ? Was not the Government still re- 
strained by fear of Spain ; and also was it not at that 
very moment, mustering all its available strength, under 
Wayne, for an attack on the NTorth western Indians ? 
Piomingo had withstood all the blandishments of the 
Spaniards, and for years had remained the firm friend of 


the Cumberland settlers. There was no hope of detach- 
ing him from Robertson. Therefore dissension and 
division must be sown among his people, and they, if not 
he, be won over to the Spaniards. To this end Caron- 
delet now applied the most approved Spanish diplomacy. 
He seduced a prominent Chickasaw chief, named Ugu- 
layacabe, the wolf's friend, by an annual pension of five 
hundred dollars,* to organize within the nation a party 
in opposition to Piomingo, and at the same time he 
incited the Creeks to make war upon the Chicka- 

The Creeks began hostilities at once by entering the 
Chickasaw country, stealing the horses, and taking the 
lives of a few of the mountain leader's warriors. Hear- 
ing of this, Robertson wrote Piomingo in a tone of en- 
couragement, and to this the Chickasaw king replied by 
a letter signed by himself and twenty-nine of his princi- 
pal chiefs. In this letter Piomingo says: ''We head- 
men have held you fast by the hand, and have told our 
young warriors to do the same ; and they will, so long 
as they are able to lift a hatchet. We have sent you a 
war-club. When we both take hold we can strike a hard 
blow. . . . Our agreement was to be as one man in re- 
gard to our enemies and friends. The Creeks say, all the 
Virginians are liars, and no dependence is to be placed in 
them, and that we Chickasaws are fools. Their talk 

* Statement of Daniel Clark to Secretary Madison, quoted in Wilkin- 
son's "Memoirs," vol. ii, p. 141. 


does not alter us. Speak strong to your young warriors ; 
let us join to teach the Creeks what war is. You make 
whisky — send us some ; it is good to take a little at war- 

*' We believe the Choctaws will join us, and not our 
enemies. They need ammunition and guns, as well as 
we ; muskets, rifles, smooth-bore, will do. As we made 
no crops last year, we are in a starving condition. Send 
us quickly fifteen hundred bushels of corn, two barrels of 
flour, one hundred bushels of salt, one hogshead of to- 
bacco, fifty bags of vermilion, as it is greatly needed in 
war. Do not forget the whisky. And we desire that 
General Washington will station a garrison at the Muscle 
Shoals, or Bear Creek." 

Kobertson, though of opinion that it was ^^ devilish 
for Indians," did not ^"^ forget the whisky." Without 
a day's delay he loaded a flat-boat with the desired sup- 
plies, and dispatched it under charge of his son Ran- 
dolph, and a suitable guard, to his good friend Piomin- 
go, at the Chickasaw Bluffs (Memphis). From the mani- 
fest, subsequently furnished to the War Department, it 
appears that the boat's cargo consisted of five hundred 
stand of arms, two thousand pounds of joowder, four 
thousand flints, fifteen hundred bushels of corn, fifty 
pounds of vermilion, one hundred gallons of whisky, 
together with an armorer and his tools. The armorer 
was sent along to man the one solitary brass swivel, 
which had for so long a time done duty on the fort at 
Nashville. He was to work it in case of an attack on 


the boat, and, on arriving among the Chickasaws, was to 
instruct them in its management. The supplies arrived 
safely, and were acknowledged by Piomingo in the fol- 
lowing letter, which is still on the files of the United 
States War Department : 

" Chickasaw Nation, June 17, 1793. 
"Dear old Friend : I have received several letters 
from you since I was able to answer you, owing to mat- 
ters being unsettled, as they are here at present. I re- 
ceived the corn and other articles by your son Randolph, 
for which I thank my brothers, the Americans, for con- 
sidering us in so great need. Our situation has been 
such that we could not pass to you as usual. I have 
sent one man with your son, as he requested, and hope 
shortly to come in myself. Whether this will ever reach 
you is uncertain, for I hear the path is watched by 
Creeks and Cherokees, in order to intercept all messages 
passing, and I fear your son will never reach Cumber- 
land ; but, if he should be so fortunate as to get in, he 
can inform you of the circumstances of all matters, as 
I have made him fully acquainted with all within my 
knowledge. His being a woodsman, and going on foot, 
give me hopes he may get in safe. He can inform you 
of my unsettled situation, which, as soon as I can alter, 
and get my business arranged, you may be sure of seeing 
me. I endeavored to prevail with your son to wait 
longer, until he might go safer, but in vain, as he was 
anxious to get in to let you know how matters were. 


that you might inform Governor Blount ; so he prefers 
going at the risk of alh I have often told you of the 
Creeks and Cherokees, which I am sure they will not 
cease to continue till they feel the weight of the white 
people, which I hope will not be long. Surely, my 
friend, if you knew how lightly and despisingly they 
speak of you and your friends, you could not bear it as 
you do. If we did not know you to be warriors, we 
should not know what to think of your calling them 
friends. We, the Chickasaws, who are but one very 
small house in the great city, the United States, could 
not bear to throw away and let the blood of one man 
pass without retaliation. The Creeks were the aggress- 
ors, and asked a cessation of arms of us, as your son can 
inform you. If you would treat them so, they would 
not think as little of you. There are very bad talks 
going on at this time, of which I shall be better able to 
inform you hereafter. Your son can tell you of seeing 
Cherokees coming in, which he saw with scalps and war- 
instruments, to invite us and the Choctaws to join all 
other Indians to war against the United States. The 
Spaniards are getting all the Indians they can to a treaty 
at the Walnut Hills. What their intentions are is un- 
certain, but, I apprehend, nothing to your advantage, 
which you will be better able to judge when I arrive ; 
it will then be in my power to inform you of all that is 
of consequence. I intend to visit the President when I 
come in — your son has promised me to go with me. I 
hope you will not be against it. Please to let Governor 


Blount know of it, which will be about four or five 
weeks. I want you to get Simson to make me a gun 
like Colonel Masker's. I hope you will take great care 
of yourself, as both the Creeks and Cherokees will try to 
get you. Keep out your scouts at a great distance ; it 
will be best for safety, and not let them hunt near you, 
as they always do you mischief when breaking up to go 
home. I am very glad to hear you say that, the Presi- 
dent has sent a great warrior to command his army 
against the Northern tribes if they do not treat. But, 
my brother, I hardly know what you mean by treating 
with tribes that are always at war with you, and will be 
until you whip them ; perhaps you may then have a 
treaty with them that may keep peace. Did I not tell 
how the Creeks and Cherokees would behave when they 
treated ? I said they would pay no regard to what they 
did ; so you found it. If we confirm a treaty with the 
Creeks, they will be told every injury done us will be 
retaliated for, and we will observe to do it. 
**I am and will be your friend and brother, 

"General Robertson." 

Young Robertson, on his way down the Mississippi, 
touched at New Madrid, and was received with a vast 
deal of polite ceremony by the Spanish commandant, 
M. Portell. He was, however, no sooner out of sight, 
than the courteous Spaniard dispatched a canoe down 
the river to Carondelet, with information that Robertson 


was arming the Chickasaws with brass artillery. At 
once Carondelet conveyed the astounding intelligence to 
the Spanish minister at Philadelphia, and on the same 
day expressed his sentiments upon the subject in a letter 
to Eobertson. In this letter, after a number of compli- 
mentary remarks, he says : " I have felt the greatest con- 
cern on account of the measures taken by you to comply 
with the request of the Chickasaw nation, sending them 
such supplies, and at the same time a little piece, an arm 
too dangerous in the hands of Indians. . . . The jDolicy 
of the United States and of Spain is carefully to conceal 
from them its use. This has been my conduct toward 
the Cherokees ; and really I have prevailed upon them to 
stop all hostility against the Cumberland settlements(!). 
This they will observe, unless forced to take up arms in 
their own defense." 

Then the Governor spoke graciously of "his Catholic 
Majesty" mediating with Congress to fix the Indian 
boundaries, which, being advantageous to both parties, 
might prevent further controversy. He had tried this 
with the Creeks, whom lie, had turned from their hostil- 
ity to the Georgians(!). He had also refused a supply of 
arms to the Creeks at Natchez, and to the Chickasaws at 
"Walnut Hills. It was probable, he said, that a general 
peace would shortly take place, without which the Cum- 
berland colony could not flourish ; and, in conclusion, he 
expressed a desire to meet General Robertson, and to ex- 
press to him personally the high esteem in which he held 


In mendacity and impudence this letter rises to the 
height of sublimity. The presumption of a petty Span- 
ish Governor, in thus addressing an American official, 
exhibits the low estimation in which this country was 
held when it first took rank among nations. However, 
the Spanish gentleman did not overestimate the value 
to the Chickasaws of that *' little piece." In their hands 
it was to be more potent against the Creeks than a 
thousand rifles. 

Through Piomingo, Eobertson had been well informed 
of the intrigues of Carondelet with the various tribes of 
savages ; but, restraining his indignation, he replied to 
him with a courtesy which would have done credit to 
Sevier himself. His letter was as follows : 

"MiRO District, Nashville, December 5, 1793. 
'^Sir: I had yesterday the honor of receiving yours 
of the 21st of May, and am happy to find your Excel- 
lency's sentiments so congenial with my own, relative to 
the treatment proper to be given our Indian neighbors. 
When we reason from general principles, a small degree 
of reflection will show us the impropriety of enlightened 
nations furnishing savages, even in time of war, with 
weapons that a few months may turn against themselves; 
much more so in a time of peace. This, sir, is however 
an idea that did not occur to me at the time I sent the 
piece to the Chickasaws ; but that step was merely the 
effect of an effusion of friendship for them in conse- 
quence of their faithful adherence to our interests^ and 


perhaps will appear less reprehensible when it is con- 
sidered they were then at open war with the Creeks, who 
have been our constant and inveterate enemies. I must, 
however, observe that this was altogether a transaction 
of my 01V71, and must not be charged on our General 
Government, to which application was made for several 
more, which was refused. 

*'I can assure your Excellency that every opportu- 
nity has been made use of to impress on the Indians 
the idea of friendship subsisting between Spain and the 
United States, and particularly by his Excellency the 
Governor of this Territory, at a treaty held by authority 
of the United States with the Choctaw and Chicka- 
saw nations at this place in 1792, and it has been my 
particular care at every conference to hold out the same 

"Various reports have circulated with us of the 
Spanish Government having incited the Indians to war 
against us, of which I held it my duty to inform Gov- 
ernment ; though, at the same time, I knew not how 
to reconcile this with information I received through 
the channel of correspondence with several Spanish 
officers, and other corroborating circumstances, wholly 
incompatible with such measures, which also I remarked 
in my representations to Government. 

"The establishment of peace is indeed a very im- 
portant object, especially for our infant countries ; and 
it gives me the greatest pleasure to find the measures 
of your Government directed to that end, and the more 


so that, if sincerely pursued, which I doubt not they 
are, they can not fail of success. 

*^The honor of an interview with your Excellency, 
thoudi it would afford me real satisfaction, is what I 
rather wish for than expect ; yet it may still be in our 
power to correspond, which I flatter myself will be 

It was not long before Ugulayacabe, on his return 
from a visit to Carondelet, arrived at Nashville, making 
earnest inquiry if Piomingo had ceded some of the 
Chickasaw lands to the Americans. Eobertson knew of 
his efforts to stir up opposition to the mountain leader, 
and, readily discerning his motive in asking this ques- 
tion, he gave him no satisfaction. His distrust of this 
chief was shared by the Cumberland people, who, haying 
lost all veneration for princelings, insisted upon abbre- 
viating his name into Ugly Cub. However, he appears 
to have created, by means of Spanish gewgaws, enough 
of a party among the Chickasaws to secure the adhesion 
of some of the chiefs to an offensive and defensive alli- 
ance which Carondelet soon succeeded in forming with 
the Cherokees, Creeks, and Shawnees. 

By this treaty these several nations formed a confed- 
eracy for mutual assistance, binding themselves to act in 
nothing which had a bearing upon the interest, security, 
or welfare of any one of the parties, without the consent 
of all, and the approval of the Governor of Louisiana. 
And/ in return for the aid and protection of Spain, the 


Indians agreed to contribute, to the utmost of their 
power, to maintain ''his Catholic Majesty" in possession 
of the provinces of Louisiana and the two Floridas. 
When this treaty had been concluded, Carondelet wrote 
exultingly to tlie Spanish ministry that he could then, 
for a trifling annual expenditure, oppose to the Ameri- 
cans an army of twenty thousand Indian warriors. 

The Shawnees had resolved upon tlie destruction of 
Piomingo, on account of the aid he had given to Saint 
Clair in his expedition against them in 1791 ; the Creeks 
were preparing to begin upon him a w^ar of extermina- 
tion, because of his faithful adhesion to Eobertson ; and 
now a number of his prominent chiefs had been lured 
from their allegiance by the arts of the Spaniards. All 
this he knew, and he wrote to Robertson that his' sit- 
uation was desperate, but that he should stand erect, 
and acquit himself like a true man and a Chickasaw 

This Robertson had from him by a special messenger. 
By the next express he heard that Piomingo was dead — 
assassinated in the heart of his own nation, by (it was 
believed) a Chickamauga warrior. '' His death," says 
the old chronicle, ''was much lamented by the people of 
Cumberland " ; but by none was the noble savage so 
much mourned as by Robertson, who loved and trusted 
him as if he had been his own brother. 

With Piomingo dead, Robertson could not count on a 
certain continuance of friendly relations with the Choc- 
taws and Chickasaws. Without their great leader, they 


could not be expected to resist the pressure which would 
be brought to bear upon them by the other nations. 
Therefore, Robertson had now before him a war with 
a combination of all the Southwestern Indians. It is 
clear that at no previous time had his situation been 
more desperate. 



From Piomingo Robertson received early intelli- 
gence of the offensive and defensive alliance which had 
been formed between the Spaniards and the several 
Southern tribes, and he fully realized that his only hope 
of peace now lay in a prompt invasion of the Indian 
country. This was made more clear to him by a report 
from James Carey, one of the interpreters for the United 
States residing with the Cherokees, who said that "tlie 
impression generally prevailed with the Indians that the 
reason why the Americans did not retaliate, but patiently 
bore the injuries they had received from them, was the 
posture of their negotiations with foreign powers, and 
their fear of offending them ; and that, if it was not for 
this, the Americans certainly would not be offering and 
begging peace in return for the murders, robberies, and 
bloodshed, daily committed on their citizens." 

Governor Blount appreciated the situation of the 
Cumberland settlers, and urged upon the Secretary of 
War the necessity of speedy measures being taken for 


their protection. " My apprehensions," he wrote to him, 
"for those unhappy, exposed, and too defenseless people, 
are very great and truly distressing. What is to be their 
future, judging from their past and present impending 
danger, is a very serious question."* But it seemed im- 
possible for General Knox to realize the situation. He 
did not understand why the Creeks and Cherokees did 
not observe the recent treaties, nor accept the fact that 
nothing but fear of punishment would restrain them 
from bloodshed and horse-stealing. He had already 
withdrawn Major Sharp and his one hundred and ninety 
men to re-enforce the army forming under Wayne to 
beat back the Northern Indians ; and he now wrote to 
Governor Blount : " Can not the Indians be appeased by 
gifts ? Have not most of their acts been provoked and 
done in retaliation ? Will not a hundred mounted men, 
ranging through the woods, and along the dividing ridges 
and the boundaries to which they have assented, be all 
that need be done ? Is it not most important of all to 
restrain hunters, spies, and speculators from intrusions 
upon Indian territory ? " 

It was idle to argue with such ignorance, and conse- 
quently Robertson decided upon a direct application to 
Congress. When the first Territorial Legislature met at 
Knoxville, in February, 1794, he induced the members to 
forward a memorial to that body on the subject. '' In it 
they demanded a declaration of war against the Creeks 

* " American State Papers," vol. v, p. 436. 


and Cherokees ; and stated that, since the treaty of Hol- 
ston, they had killed, in a most barbarous and inhuman 
manner, upward of two hundred citizens of the United 
States, residents in this Territory, without regard to age 
or sex, and carried others into captivity and slavery, and 
had robbed the citizens of their slaves, and stolen at 
least two thousand horses, which, at a moderate calcula- 
tion, were worth one hundred thousand dollars.* 

*^ Scarcely is there a man of this body," said the 
memorial, *^but can recount a dear wife or child, an 
aged parent or near relation, massacred by the hands of 
these bloodthirsty nations, in their houses or fields ; nor 
are our neighbors and friends less miserable. Such have 
been the sufferings of your fellow-citizens resident in this 
Territory, more than ought to be imposed on men who, 
by their joint exertions with the citizens of the United 
States at large, have achieved freedom and independ- 

By Congress this memorial was referred to a commit- 
tee, which by its chairman, Mr. Carnes, reported " That, 
from the representations made to them, the condition of 
the Territory calls for the most energetic measures, and 
they recommend that the President shall be authorized 
to call out an adequate military force to carry on offen- 
sive operations against any hostile tribe, and to establish 
such posts and defenses as may be necessary for the per- 
manent security of the frontier settlers." And this was 

* Havwood. 


all that was done. Congress adjourned without taking 
any further action whatever on the subject ! 

Then Robertson decided upon a direct appeal to 
Washington. He induced the Territorial Legislature to 
instruct their representative in Congress to present to 
him " the additional list of one hundred and five of our 
fellow-citizens who have suffered by the Creeks and 
Cherokees since our memorial to Congress in the spring, 
in addition to the former and cruel acts of hostility with 
which this Territory has been insulted by those Indians ; 
and to assure his Excellency that if the people of this 
Territory have borne with outrages which stretch human 
patience to the utmost, it has been through our venera- 
tion for the head of the Federal Governme7it, and through 
the hopes we entertain that his influence will finally ex- 
tend to procure for this injured part of the Union that 
justice which nothing but retaliating on an unrelenting 
enemy can afford." 

The reply to this last appeal came to Governor 
Blount, and he at once conveyed it to Robertson. It 
was as follows : " With respect to destroying the Lower 
Towns, however vigorous such a measure might be, or 
whatever good consequences might result from it, I am 
instructed specially by the President to say that he does 
not consider himself authorized to direct any such meas- 
ure, more especially as the whole subject was before the 
last Congress, who did not think proper to authorize or 
direct any offensive operations.^'' 

This letter Robertson read to his neighbors, and it 


only served to increase the war feeling. *^ Defensive 
measures !" they exclaimed ; ''keep at home, and watch, 
and wait, and allow the creeping savages the first fire !. 
We know what that means. It means more murders of 
our friends and kindred, and in the end extermination." 
At the same time came two ex23resses from George Col- 
bert, a prominent chief of the Ohickasaws, with informa- 
tion that a large number of Creeks and Cherokees were 
embodying to invade the settlements along the Cumber- 
land ; that a war of extermination was determined on, 
and that the agents of Spain urged, and were to aid in, 
its prosecution. 

The Indian murders and outrages continued without 
abatement, and among the killed were again some of the 
most prominent citizens. Things had come to a pass 
when self-preservation became the only law that could be 
recognized ; and, seeing that Congress had done nothing, 
Eobertson now announced to the people that he should 
at once equip and march a strong force to the destruc- 
tion of the Chickamauga towns. If his conduct should 
not be approved by the Government, he would resign, or 
submit to any punishment that might be inflicted upon 
him. A few days previously, he had heard that General 
Logan and Colonel Whitley, two of the most popular 
leaders in Kentucky, were calling for volunteers to in- 
vade the Cherokee country ; and that Major Ore, of the 
United States Army, with sixty men, had been ordered 
to range the Cumberland Mountains in search of small 
parties of hostile savages. To these officers he dispatched 


expresses requesting them to bring all the troops they 
could muster to the block-house, two miles east of Bu- 
chanan's Station, by August 19th, and then he proceeded 
to call for volunteers within his own department. This 
done, he sent for Joseph Brown, and requested him to 
explore a route practicable for horsemen through the 
woods to Nick-a-jack. The young man was still suffer- 
ing from his wound, and was asked to go a distance of 
more than a hundred miles through a trackless forest, 
never yet trodden by a white man, and behind whose 
every tree might lurk a Chickamauga; but with only 
two or three companions, he set out and returned in 
safety, carefully blazing a route for the army which was 
to follow. 

The whole country rose at the call of Eobertson. 
More than a thousand men volunteered to go upon the 
expedition, but no less than three bands of savages were 
known to be then marauding along the Cumberland, and 
a considerable force must remain behind to protect the 
settlements. Colonel Whitley had come in with a hun- 
dred men from Kentucky, and Major Ore with the sixty 
regular troops, whom the Governor had detailed to range 
the Cumberland Mountains. To these Robertson added 
such a number of volunteers as brought the whole force 
up to five hundred and fifty men, all of whom were well 
armed and well mounted. He was himself still suffering 
from the wounds in his arm and foot, and not able to 
endure the exposure and fatigue of such an expedition ; 
therefore, command of the little army was given to Colo- 


nel Whitley, a brave man, and mucli experienced in In- 
dian fighting. However, as Major Ore's force was the 
only one levied by public authority, it was decided that 
he should have nominal command, in order to entitle the 
volunteers to pay from the General Government. On 
the 30th of August, before the men were fully ready to 
set out, Eobertson wrote the Governor apprising him of 
the intended expedition, and six days later issued to 
Major Ore the following marching orders : 

"Nashville, September 6, 1794. 

'^ Major Ore : The object of your command is, to 
defend the District of Miro against the Creeks and 
Cherokees of the lower towns, who I have received in- 
formation are about to invade it ; and also to punish 
such Indians as have committed recent depredations. 
For these objects you will march, with the men under 
your command, from Brown's Block-house on the 8th 
instant, and proceed along Taylor's Trace, toward the 
Tennessee ; and if you do not meet this party before you 
arrive at the Tennessee, you will pass it, and destroy the 
lower Cherokee towns, which must serve as a check to 
the expected invaders ; taking care to spare women and 
children, and to treat all prisoners who may fall into 
your hands with humanity, and thereby teach those sav- 
ages to spare the citizens of the United States under 
similar circumstances. Should you iu your march dis- 
cover the trails of Indians returning from the commis- 
sion of recent depredations on the frontiers, which can 


generally be distinguished by the horses stolen being 
shod, you are to give pursuit to such parties, even to the 
towns from which they came, and punish them for their 
aggressions in an exemplary manner, to the terror of 
others from the commission of similar offenses, provided 
this can be consistent with the main object of your com- 
mand, as above expressed — the defense of the District of 
Miro against the expected party of Creeks and Chero- 

^'I have the utmost confidence in your patriotism and 
bravery ; and, with my warmest wishes for your success, 
^^I am, sir, your obedient servant, 

"James Robeetsoj^, 
" Brigadier- GeneraV^ 

I need not follow the troops on their toilsome march 
of a hundred and twenty miles through the unbroken 
wilderness. They encountered no Indians on the way, 
and their presence was not discovered when, on the night 
of the 12th of September, they went into camp on the 
bank of the Tennessee, directly opposite to the town of 
Nick-a-jack. The river at this point is three fourths of 
a mile wide, and the current in places is deep and rapid ; 
but such was the eagerness of some of the force to get 
within rifle-range of the savages, that they plunged at 
once into the stream, and, some on rafts of cane, and 
some on the backs of their horses, or swimming beside 
them, made their way across the river. Among these 
last was young Brown, and the twenty sharp-shooters 


■who formed his company — for, on account of his zeal and 
many services, he had already been advanced to a cap- 
taincy. There, shielded from the enemy by the tall cane 
that grew along the bank of the river, they waited in 
breathless silence for the morning. 

With the first streak of dawn the little party which 
had crossed the river was joined by the larger portion of 
their comrades, and then silently they moved down upon 
the Chickamaugas. A scene of havoc and death followed. 
Taken by surprise, the Indians fled at first in all direc- 
tions, the larger number toward the river, with intent to 
gain the cave of Nick-a-jack, or some other inaccessible 
hiding-place in the near-by mountains. But from these 
retreats they found themselves cut off by young Brown 
and his little company, who mowed them down without 
mercy. Then they turned their steps to the narrow pass 
between the river and the mountains, which led to the 
town of Running Water. Here they were met by re-en- 
forcements from that town, and, recovering from their 
panic, made a stand, and fought for a time with desper- 
ate bravery. They largely outnumbered the whites, 
but could not resist their impetuosity, and in half an 
hour there was not left in either town a solitary Indian 
warrior. Seventy lay dead upon the ground ; the rest 
had fled by the river, or into the adjacent forest. Then 
the torch was applied to the two towns, and soon every 
dwelling within them was reduced to cinders. 

When the fight was over, young Brown returned to 
Nick-a-jack, and inquired if any prisoners had been 


taken. He was directed to a cabin where some twenty 
were confined, and, entering it, found there, crouching 
in a corner, his former mistress, the old Frenchwoman. 
All the captives recognized him, and were terror-stricken, 
remembering his murdered kindred. The old woman 
was the only one to speak. She pleaded for their lives, 
reminding Joseph that she had saved him when he was 
about to be murdered by Cutleotoy. "We are white 
people," he said to her; "we do not kill women and 
children." "Oh, co-tan-co-ney ! " ("Oh, that is good 
news to the wretched ! "), cried the old woman. 

In concluding his report of the expedition to the Gov- 
ernor, Major Ore says : "At Nick-a-jack were found two 
fresh scalps which had been lately taken at Cumberland ; 
a quantity of powder and lead, lately arrived there from 
the Spanish Government ; and a commission for the 
Breath, the head-man of the town, who was among the 
killed." The prisoners taken informed him that a party 
of Creeks and Cherokees had just gone forward to raid 
upon the Cumberland; and he adds, "They also in- 
formed me that two nights before the destruction of 
Kunning Water, a scalp-dance was held in it, over the 
scalps lately taken from Cumberland, at which were pres- 
ent John Watts, the Bloody Fellow, and other chiefs of 
the Lower Towns, and it was determined to continue the 
war in conjunction with the Creeks with more activity 
than heretofore, and to erect block-houses at each of the 
lower towns for their defense, as advised by the Spanish 


As Nick-a-jack was taken completely by surprise, on 
it fell the heaviest slaughter. To it belonged the war- 
riors who had murdered the Brown family, and, in lead- 
ing the troops to its destruction, young Brown felt that 
he was acting as ^^ God's avenger." This feeling contin- 
ued with him to the very last, and when he wrote out his 
narrative, at the great age of eighty-six, he said, '^The 
judgment of Heaven fell upon the Indians." 

The towns of Nick-a-jack and Eunning Water were 
now the principal crossing-places of the Creeks in their 
raids upon the Cumberland. All the Indian trails 
branched from those places, and not from the towns 
higher up the river ; and hence, by the most liberal con- 
struction of his orders. Major Ore was not at liberty to 
attack the three other towns, though they were no doubt 
equally as guilty. Therefore, when the work of destruc- 
tion was completed, he crossed the Tennessee with his 
prisoners, and marched back to Nashville, with only 
three of his command so much as wounded. 

On the return of the troops from the expedition. 
Major Ore made a full report to the Governor ; but before 
that date, and as soon as he received Eobertson's letter 
announcing his resolution, Blount wrote to him : '' You 
can't conceive my surprise and mortification on being 
taught to believe that you have so far countenanced the 
lawless attempt of Whitley as to give conditional sanc- 
tion to troops going with him. ... I hope the condi- 
tional order of muster was not in writing. I know not 
the price I would take to report such an order to the 


War Department. Your letter of 30tli ult. will be de- 
stroyed, that it may never rise in judgment. Don't sup- 
pose this too severe ; it proceeds from my personal 
esteem, and the high value I set upon your public char- 
acter. No good consequences can arise from such unau- 
thorized expeditions." In a subsequent letter, dated the 
2d of October, he says : " None of your letters hereto- 
fore written will appear, so that you have it in your 
power to take up the subject at large, and state your 

Put thus upon the defensive, Robertson rej)lied 
promptly to this letter as follows : 

"Nashville, October 8, 179^. 

'' Sir : I have to acknowledge the receipt of your Ex- 
cellency's letter of the 2d instant. Inclosed you have 
a copy of my order to Major Ore, of the 6th of Septem- 
ber ; my reasons for giving it were that I had received 
two expresses from the Chickasaws — one by Thomas 
Brown, a man of as much veracity as any in the nation, 
the other by a common runner — giving information that 
a large body of Creeks, with the Cherokees of the Lower 
Towns, were embodying with a determination of invading 
the District of Miro ; and not doubting my information, 
I conceived, if Major Ore did not meet this invading 
army of Creeks and Cherokees, as I expected, that it 
could not be considered otherwise than defensive to 
strike the first blow on the Lower Towns, and thus check 
them in the advance. Nor could I suppose that the pur- 


suing of parties of Indians who had recently committed 
murders and thefts, to the towns from whence they came, 
and there striking them, could be considered as an offen- 
sive measure unauthorized by the usage of nations in 
such cases. It can not be necessary to add as a justifica- 
tion the long-repeated, and I might say, almost daily 
sufferings of the people of the District of Miro, by the 
hands of the Creeks and Cherokees of the Lower Towns." 

He then enumerates various murders which had been 
committed in widely-separated places, during the absence 
of the troops, to prove that even then three distinct hos- 
tile parties were marauding through the district, and he 
closed by saying : ''If I have erred, I shall ever regret it. 
To be a good citizen, obedient to the law, is my greatest 
pride ; and to execute the duties of the commission with 
which the President has been pleased to honor me, in 
such a manner as to meet his approbation, and that of 
my superiors in rank, has ever been my most fervent 
wish. . . . Inclosed is a copy of a letter to John Watts ; 
and from my experience in Indian affairs, I have my 
hopes that, from the scourging Major Ore has given the 
lower Cherokees, we shall receive less injury from them 
than "heretofore." 

John Watts was the most redoubtable of the Chero- 
kee warriors, and the acknowledged head-chief of the 
Lower Towns. In the letter to him, a copy of which he 
inclosed to the Governor, Robertson announced very dis- 
tinctly that another expedition would be speedily sent to 
destroy the remaining towns, if Watts did not at once re- 


store all the whites who were held captive in the nation, 
and also take immediate aiid effectual measures to re- 
strain his warriors from further ravages on the Cumber- 

This letter was a direct notice to the Governor that 
Eobertson would no longer be hampered by instructions 
to confine himself to defensive operations. The response 
which Eobertson received from Blount was a letter in- 
forming him that the Secretary of War directed him to 
say that ^^all ideas of offensive operations must be laid 
aside/* and he added, "It will be your duty, sir, to use 
your authority, in you vested, to prevent the repetition 
of such acts." Robertson's reply to this was the follow- 
ing letter of resignation, dated 

" Knoxtille, Ocloher 23, 179^. 

" SiE : Finding it incompatible with my private avo- 
cations any longer to perform the duties of brigadier-gen- 
eral of the militia of Miro District in the Territory of the 
United States south of the river Ohio, with which ap- 
pointment I have been honored by the President of the 
United States, I beg leave to resign that commission, at 
the same time assuring you that it is not through any 
disgust with the public service, or officers of Government, 
that I am induced to take this step." 

In reference to Robertson's resignation the historian 
Haywood remarks : *' What are the feelings excited by 
this scene, in which we see an old and tried patriot, who 
never once failed to fly to the succor of his country in 


distress, chided and reproved for an act which actually 
put an end to Indian incursions, and wrested from their 
hands the tomahawk and scalping-knife ? We shall be 
obliged to say, if an error was committed, it was on the 
side of virtue and patriotism. . . . Shall one be the 
savior of his country, and for that be chagrined into 
retirement ? The regrets of that country will follow his 
exit, and the glow of affection shall rise at the tale. 
Whoever admires the man that loves his country more 
than himself, at the same time that he acknowledges the 
correctness of that policy of government which is inflexi- 
ble for disobedience of orders will say, with the sincerity 
of truth, that, in this instance, I wish it were otherwise." 
The raid upon the Chickamauga towns did, in fact, 
"put an end to Indian incursions" against the Cumber- 
land settlements. This result probably followed not so 
much on account of the actual damage which had been 
inflicted upon the Indians, as because they were shown 
that their secret haunts had become known to the whites, 
and they had again adopted an offensive policy that 
would soon lead to their extermination. And now it was 
the Indians who begged for a cessation of hostilities. 
John Watts knew that Robertson's intimation of another 
visit to the Lower Towns was no idle threat, and he no 
sooner received his letter by the hands of a liberated 
prisoner, than he applied to Scolacutta (Hanging-Maw), 
now the head king of the Cherokees, to make peace for 
him with the pale-faces. Scolacutta was known to have 
done all he could to restrain the Chickamaugas, and con- 


sequently the Governor now cheerfully granted him the 
conference he requested. It took place early in Novem- 
ber on the Tellico. John Watts was present, and he 
opened the talk by strong expressions of penitence for 
his misconduct, admitting that the Running Water and 
JSTick-a-jack towns deserved the treatment they had re- 
ceived. '^I know," he said, " General Eobertson to be a 
good man, and that he always does what is right." 

Scolacutta's speech on the occasion was so brief that it 
may be given in full. "I am," he said, ^^the head-man 
of my nation, as Governor Blount is of the white people. 
It was not the fault of either of us that those towns were 
destroyed. Their own conduct brought destruction on 
them. The trail of murderers and thieves was followed 
to those towns. Nevertheless, I can not neglect the re- 
quest they have made to me to make peace for them." 

Thus the savages, who were the sufferers by it, ap- 
proved of the conduct of Robertson : it was subsequently 
to receive the decided indorsement of Congress. In 
April, 1798, W. C. 0. Claiborne presented to that body 
the petition of Stephen Cantrill and others, for compen- 
sation for services on the Nick-a-jack expedition. The 
petition was referred to the then Secretary of War, who 
reported the facts as exhibited by the letters of Governor 
Blount, and the officers who originated and conducted 
the expedition, and added these remarks : *^The destruc- 
tion of the lower Cherokee towns stands upon its own 
footing. That it was not authorized by the President, or 
this department, is certain ; and the services for which 


compensation is asked were performed on an expedition 
offensive, unauthorized^ and in direct violation of orders 
to Governor Blount, by whom also they were not sanc- 

However, with a report so decidedly adverse to the 
petition, it was nevertheless granted. In a speech in 
behalf of the petitioners, Mr. Claiborne said : " The ex- 
pedition was authorized by General Robertson, and it 
remains now for us to decide whether soldiers shall or 
shall not be entitled to pay until they have previously 
assured themselves of the legitimate authority of their 
commanding officer. At the time when this expedition 
was set on foot, a war raged between the United States 
and the Cherokee nation of Indians, the horrors of which 
bore hard upon the District of Miro. The very existence 
of the settlement was threatened. Scarcely a day passed 
without some of the inhabitants being murdered. In- 
formation was received that the Indians were embodied, 
in order to carry the war into the settlements. 

'' What was the general to do ? Stand still ? Make 
no effort to avert the danger ? He was not the man to 
do that ; they were not the people to endure forever. 
Already had they suffered and had patience beyond all 
former example. The safety of the people required him 
to act, and he struck the first blow, which was a defen- 
sive one — a defensive measure fully authorized by the 
usages of all nations. Citizens obeyed the command of 
their officer — they had served under him before; they 
did not falter now." 


The opinion of Congress was that a just and wise con- 
struction of his orders justified the measures pursued by 
Kobertson ; and a resolution being offered that his sol- 
diers were entitled to pay, it was agreed to without oppo- 
sition, and a bill to that effect was at once reported and 
passed unanimously. 



While Robertson was making preparations for the 
expedition against the Chickaraaugas, there suddenly ap- 
peared before his station one morning a body of a hun- 
dred and twenty savages, armed and painted for the war- 
path. They rode boldly up to the gateway, and, to his 
great joy, Robertson discovered at their head his devoted 
friend Piomingo. A desperate attempt had been made 
upon the life of the Chickasaw king by a party of Creeks, 
and this had given rise to the report of his death which 
had reached Robertson. Piomingo had sent several mes- 
sengers to apprise his white brother of his safety, but 
none of them had got through, because the Creeks and 
Chickamaugas waylaid every pathway into the white 
settlements. He had very narrowly escaped assassina- 
tion, but the attempt to murder him had brought the 
disaffected among his chieftains to their reason, and 
united them against his enemies ; even Ugulayacabe now 
declared that he had turned his back upon the Spaniards 
forever. The Creeks and Shawnees were still hostile 


to the Chickasaws, but feariDg no immediate danger 
from them, Piomingo had concluded to give his young 
braves some experience of war, by leading them to the 
help of General Wayne in his campaign against the 
Northern Indians. After being hospitably entertained 
by Kobertson, and furnished with an abundance of am- 
munition, the troop set out on its long journey into the 
Northern forests. They did good service in the battle of 
Fallen Timbers, on the 14th of August, 1794 ; and then, 
hearing that their country was again threatened by the 
Creeks, they made all haste back to the Chickasaw na- 
tion. From a runner dispatched to him by Piomingo, 
Robertson received his first accounts of that battle, which 
broke the power of the Northern Indians. 

The Cherokees had now been subdued, but the Creeks 
continued their ravages among the outlying settlements. 
Only eleven days after the return of the Chickamauga 
expedition, a party of fifty surprised, in his absence, the 
station of Colonel Titsworth on the Red River, and in 
broad day slaughtered seven of his family, and took 
three of his young children and a well-grown daughter 
prisoners. Pursuit being at once made by the militia of 
the neighborhood, the Indians killed and scalped the 
young children, but got safely away with the young 
woman and a negro servant. Within a very few days the 
father, half frantic with his grief, came to Robertson's 
station, asking to be given a pass into the Creek country. 
Only this one daughter had been left of all his family, 
and he had resolved to risk his own life in an attempt to 


ransom her from the Indians. Strange as it may seem, 
he penetrated in entire safety into the very heart of the 
Creek country, and recovered his daughter without the 
payment of the smallest ransom. The Creeks regarded 
him as insane, and persons of disordered mind they be- 
lieve to be under divine protection ; whoever does them 
an injury incurs the wrath of the Great Spirit. 

Only six days after the calamity to Colonel Tits- 
worth's family, a similar body of Creeks attacked at 
midday the station of Valentine Sevier, near Clarks- 
ville. To aid in the defense of the station since the 
death of his sons, he had admitted to one of its cabins a 
Mr. Snyder and family, the others being occupied by 
a number of young men, who were employed on his 
plantation. The terrible scene that occurred there was 
graphically told by Colonel Sevier, in the following letter 
to his brother, John Sevier : 

" Clarksville, December 18, 1794' 

^'Deab Brother : The news from this place is des- 
perate with me. On Tuesday, 11th of November last, 
about twelve o'clock, my station was attacked by about 
forty Indians. On so sudden a surprise, they were in 
almost every house before they were discovered. All the 
men belonging to the station were out, only Mr. Snyder 
and myself. Mr. Snyder, Betsey his wife, his son John, 
and my son Joseph, were killed in Snyder's house. I 
saved Snyder, so the Indians did not get his scalp, but 
they shot and tomahawked him in a barbarous manner. 


They also killed Ann King and her son James, and 
scalped my daughter Rebecca. I hope she will still re- 
cover. The Indians have killed whole families about 
here this fall. You may hear the cries of some persons 
for their friends daily. 

^^The engagement commenced by the Indians at my 
house, continued about an hour, as the neighbors say. 
Such a scene no man ever witnessed before. Nothing 
but screams, and roaring of guns, and, for some time, no 
man to assist me. The Indians have robbed all the 
goods out of every house, and have destroyed all my 
stock. You will write our ancient father this horrid 
news ; also my son Johnny. My health is much im- 
paired. The remains of my family are in good health. 
I am so distressed in my mind that I can hardly write. 

'^ Your affectionate brother, till death, 

'^ Valenti2S"e Seviek." 

A few days later the Creeks killed Colonel John 
Montgomery, who had been out on the Chickamauga 
expedition, and for several years had done effective serv- 
ice in the protection of the settlements. Other murders 
quickly followed which brought the death-roll up to 
twenty-four during the last twenty days of this month of 
November. When the bloody tidings reached Robertson, 
he set out at once for a conference with the Governor at 
Knoxville. After some delay his resignation had been 
accepted by the War Department, but not to take effect 
until the following August, and, before he was free from 


his oath of office, he hesitated to act against the Indians 
on his own responsibility. He now proposed to the 
Governor to urge npon the Goyernment the making of 
common cause with the Choctaws and Chickasaws for 
the extermination of the pestiferous Creek nation. 

Governor Blount, who had all along held Eobertson 
back, and dreamed of peace when there was no peace, now 
cordially adopted his suggestions. He wrote at once to 
the Secretary of War, recommending a thorough arming 
of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, and a formidable expe- 
dition under General Sevier into the Creek country. 
After suggesting the plan and time of the invasion, he 
went on to say that from the day of the Declaration of 
Independence to the date of his letter, the Creeks had 
not ceased to plunder and kill the citizens of the United 
States, without cause or provocation, and regardless of 
the Treaty of New York, and of all other pledges ; and, 
until they were made to sensibly feel the horrors of war 
at their own wigwams, they would not desist from their 
murderous raids against the white settlements. If these 
raids continued, the advanced settlements would be anni- 
hilated, unless the Government came promptly to their 
defense ; and the only effectual defense was an invasion 
of the Creek country. 

But the situation of the settlers was no better appre- 
ciated by Secretary Pickering than it had been by Sec- 
retary Knox. He refused to listen to any suggestion 
for offensive operations, and expressed the opinion that 
the white settlers on the frontier were the aggressors, and 


the Indians stood more in need of protection from them 
than they from the Indians ! He emphasized this opin- 
ion by refusing to pay General Sevier's brigade for the 
campaign of 1793, and the officers and men who had 
served under Major Ore on the Chickamauga expedition. 
After enumerating many improprieties in the conduct 
of the Governor, and of General Robertson, and forbid- 
ding any assistance to be given to the Chickasaws, his 
letter to the Governor closed as follows: ^^Upon the 
whole, sir, I can not refrain from saying that the com- 
plexion of some of the transactions in the Southwestern 
Territories appears unfavorable to the public interest. 
It is plain that the United States are determined, if pos- 
sible, to avoid a direct or indirect war with the Creeks." 

A copy of this letter was sent to Robertson, and was 
read by him to the leading men upon the Cumberland. 
Their comment upon it was : "We have asked for bread, 
and they have given us a serpent. We have prayed for a 
blessing, and have received cursing. Our miserable con- 
dition is now made more hopeless. We . have insult 
added to innumerable injuries." 

In a conference which was held in December with 
the Cherokees for an exchange and release of prisoners, 
their king, Scolacutta, said to the Governor that his na- 
tion, in consequence of its having made peace with Rob- 
ertson, was much exposed to the enmity of the Creeks ; 
and he besought him, as the Cherokees and Chickasaws 
were now good friends, to " tell them to join with us to 
assist the white people against the Creeks. Is it true," 


he asked, '*that this country" (the Cumberland) "is not 
under the protection of the United States ? Or is it 
that the President is not informed of the many murders 
and thefts committed there by the Creeks ? " Thus it 
will be seen that the Creeks had managed to secure the 
ill-will of all the neighboring Indians, and that it was 
then in the power of Robertson to bring all the South- 
western tribes into a coalition against that troublesome 

Shortly prior to this time the Spaniards had erected a 
fort at Chickasaw Bluff (Memphis), and garrisoned it 
with three hundred men. It was an arrogant encroach- 
ment upon United States territory, and done for the evi- 
dent purpose of overawing the Chickasaws. Against it 
Piomingo had energetically protested, and Gayoso had 
replied with pleasant phrases, but he had not removed 
the fort or the garrison. Soon after this. Colonel Tits- 
worth returned from the Creek nation, with his rescued 
daughter, and he reported to Robertson that the Creeks 
were embodying five thousand warriors for a descent, in 
the early spring, upon the Chickasaw nation. Of this 
no doubt Piomingo was aware, but on receipt of the in- 
telligence, Robertson mounted his horse, and, with a 
small escort, rode off through the woods to see, with his 
own eyes, what preparations were being made by the 
Chickasaw king for the defense of his nation. He found 
that he had built no less than thirty-five forts in various 
parts of his country, mounted the Nashville swivel on 

the walls of Log Town, his capital, and drilled his war- 


riors to garrison duty, and to fighting behind intrench- 
nients. He had been an attentive observer of the ways 
of the white people. 

During this visit Piomingo showed to Robertson a 
letter he had but recently received from Gayoso, the 
commandant at Natchez, wherein the wily Spaniard ac- 
cused the Americans of trespassing upon the Indian 
lands, and of a design to possess the whole country. 
"What" he said, "will become of the red-men, should 
they be deprived of their hunting-grounds ? The true 
policy for all the tribes is to unite, and make common 
cause against their enemies" (the Americans). "Make 
peace," he said '' with the Creeks. Be you, the Chicka- 
saws and Choctaws, united ; and should you be attacked, 
your faithful friends and allies, the Spaniards, will sup- 
port you, and give you as many arms, and as much am- 
munition, as you may want." 

Piomingo knew, when he read this, that the Span- 
iards had suborned one of his leading warriors to over- 
throw and, perhaps, to murder him ; and that, at that 
very moment, they were inciting and arming the Creeks 
for a formidable attack upon his nation. " The Span- 
iards wear two faces," he had often said to Robertson. 
" Piomingo is not a fool. He knows his friends. Not 
any of his own race have stood by him like his white 
brother. " 

During the winter that followed, the Cumberland 
colony was altogether free from savage incursions. The 
Creeks were too busy preparing to crush the Chicka- 

PIOMINGO. • 301 

saws, to give any attention to the white settlers ; and 
the Chickamaugas, their secret retreats being now 
known, did not venture to invite the second visit 
threatened by Eobertson. The lawless activity of 
their young warriors being thus restrained, there was 
danger that it would find vent in a war uj^on the 
Chickasaws. This thought gave Eobertson much con- 
cern. He feared that a strong combination might be 
formed against Piomingo. He knew that emissaries 
from the Creeks had been among the lower Cherokees, 
and soon he heard that Spain had seduced fifteen hun- 
dred Choctaw warriors into an alliance with the Creeks 
against their traditional friends, the Chickasaws. 

Without Piomingo's steady friendship of twelve years 
it is probable that the Cumberland colony could not have 
survived the many dangers that it had encountered. Of 
this Eobertson was keenly conscious. He had positive 
orders to give no assistance to the Chickasaws, and, says 
Haywood, "his honest soul lamented in silence the 
unapproved restraint." It is a curious fact that both 
he and Sevier, the two leaders who did the most effective 
service to Western civilization, and but for whose un- 
wavering patriotism the trans-Alleghany region would 
have been wrested from the Union, should have been 
forced by circumstances to act in direct opposition to 
the orders of the Government. Their acts were subse- 
quently approved, but at the time they were no better 
than rebellion, and had no other justification than ne- 


Eobertson now resolved, whateyer might be the con- 
sequences, to stand by Piomingo. To the prisoners 
whom he returned to the Chickamaugas, he said : *' Tell 
all Creeks and Cherokees that they must keep peace 
with the Chickasaws. If they go to war with them, 
they go to war with me. I am no longer a great chief 
of the United States, but my young men will follow 
where I lead, and I shall surely lead them to the de- 
struction of any town that lifts a hatchet against the 
Chickasaws." He said in effect the same to Goyernor 
Blount when, about this time, he asked permission to 
send to Piomingo such supplies of corn, arms, and am- 
munition as w^ere needed to fully prepare him for his 
expected conflict with the Creeks. The Goyernor had 
been converted from his long belief in a peace policy, and 
a recent correspondence of some asperity with Secretary 
Pickering had put him in a belligerent mood ; but he 
did not court an open rupture with the War Department. 
However, instead of a downright refusal, he said to Rob- 
ertson : **Do as you please ; but act on your own respon- 
sibility, not on mine." Without delay Robertson loaded 
a couple of flat-boats with five hundred stand of arms, 
and a bountiful supply of corn and ammunition, and dis- 
patched them in charge of Major Coffield, and a guard of 
thirty-five men, to the Chickasaws. The boats were fired 
upon by a party of Creeks about twenty-five miles below 
Clarksville, and Major Coffield and two of the guard were 
wounded, but they got safely through to Piomingo. 

The supplies had not been many days on their way. 

PIOMI¥GO. 303 

when the Chickasaw chief, Colbert, appeared in the set- 
tlements, with a small party of warriors. He had come 
to ask for the same suj^plies, and for a few of Robertson's 
young men to fight the enemies of the Chickasaws. He 
did not fear but that single-handed his braves could whip 
the Creeks and Chickamaugas, and yet he thought a few 
— a very few — of the young men of his white brother, 
would show the Creeks that the whites made common 
cause with the Chickasaws, and impress ujDon them the 
fact that if they did not desist, the great chief of the 
Cumberland would soon descend upon them as Wayne 
had descended upon the Shawnees, the Wyandots, and 
the Delawares. If the United States should object to 
this, and refuse to pay the young men, they would be 
paid by the Chickasaws. 

There was good sense in the suggestion, and Robert- 
son at once called for volunteers, stating frankly that the 
men would have to go, not as United States soldiers, but 
as independent American citizens. Such a number of- 
fered themselves as would speedily have bankrupted the 
Chickasaw nation ; but from the whole Robertson chose 
only seventy — all, however, experienced Indian fighters, 
and led by Captain David Smith, and the veteran woods- 
man, Colonel Casper Mansker. Early in May they ar- 
rived in the Chickasaw country, and Mansker set about 
a thorough examination of the Chickasaw defenses. He 
strengthened the forts, and drilled the Indians, and then 
sat down with Piomingo at Big Town to await the com- 
ing of the Creeks, who were reported on the march to 


the number of over two thousand. Log Town was the 
larger place, and the capital of the country, and on the 
fort there was mounted the "little piece," which had 
been donated to Piomingo by Eobertson. This town 
was under the command of Colbert and Captain Smith, 
who had with him only thirty of the whites. The other 
volunteers, and a much larger body of Indians, were at 
Big Town, under Piomingo himself and Colonel Man- 
sker, and it was expected that it would be the first place 
attacked, as it was not defended by a swivel, a thing 
much dreaded by the Indians. The Chickasaws were in 
exuberant spirits, for with the "little piece" to make a 
noise, and the white men to show them how to fight, 
they deemed themselves invincible. 

It is probable that the Creeks were not informed of 
the presence of the swivel, for suddenly, on the morning 
of the 28th of May, all of two thousand strong, they sur- 
rounded the fort at Log Town. A half-hour before, two 
Chickasaw women had gone from the fort to gather 
wood in the adjacent forest. They were captured by the 
Creeks, and inhumanly massacred in full view of the gar- 
rison. Exasperated at the sight. Captain Smith proposed 
a sortie to Colbert, but the wary chief held him back. 
"It is what they wish," he said, "to draw us from the 
fort. They will rush in and destroy the women and 
children." But some of his warriors could not be 
controlled. Rushing out, they fell furiously upon the 
Creeks, but were soon forced back, leaving one of their 
number dead upon the ground. Seeing that the whole 


party was in danger of destruction, Colbert allowed 
Smith to go to their rescue, while he opened upon the 
besiegers with the swivel, and every gun in the fortress. 
The "little piece" mowed a wide swath through the 
Creeks, and by the time it had uttered its voice a second 
time, struck with panic, they fled beyond the range of its 
missiles. Their leaders could not rally them to a second 
charge ; and the retreat was continued till they had 
arrived in their own country. Thus the little swivel 
did again as effectual service as it had done fourteen 
years before, when it lifted up its voice at midnight 
from the walls of the fort at Nashville. 

The thorough character of the Creek defeat was not 
at first realized by Piomingo. lie could not credit the 
fact that two thousand warriors had run away from a 
single four-pounder. He looked for an early assault 
from the enemy in some other i:)art of the Chickasaw 
country, but no attack being made, at the end of sixty 
days he let the volunteers return to Robertson. 

As Robertson had expected, his giving of aid to the 
Chickasaws was lamented by the War Department ; but 
it was, in the following year, approved by Congress. 
The first appearance of Andrew Jackson on the floor of 
the House of Representatives was on the 29th of Decem- 
ber, 1796, when he advocated that payment be made to the 
brigade, which under John Sevier, had made the cam- 
paign of Etowah ; the second, was a few days later, on 
his presenting the petition of George Colbert for compen- 
sation to the volunteers who had fought for the Chicka- 


saws. "'^The Chickasaw nation," said the chief, ^'was 
about to be invaded by the Creeks, when he applied for 
aid to their brother, James Robertson, who said he had 
no orders to send them any assistance ; that he must first 
have orders from their father, the President of the 
United States. However, a detachment of volunteers, 
under command of Colonel Mansker, came to their aid, 
and were sixty days with the Chickasaws, helping them 
to drive off their enemies." Both petitions were granted 
without opposition, and thus did Colbert redeem his 
promise to pay the volunteers. 

The Indian is by nature a braggart, and the young 
Chickasaw braves partook of this race characteristic. 
They could not resist the inclination to boast of their 
astonishing victory. Through all the Southern tribes 
they sent word that the Creeks were '^Nockiny-ho- 
bocks " — not men, but the meanest sort of women, who 
had fled at the mere blowing of a buffalo-horn ; and con- 
sequently the Creeks became the laughing-stock of all 
the Indian nations. Directly after the fight at Log 
Town, Robertson made strenuous efforts to bring the 
Creeks into peaceful relations with the Chickasaws, but 
that universal laugh frustrated all his efforts. The 
young men of the Creeks would listen to no sort of terms 
till they had shown themselves men, and not women. 

After sending several fruitless embassies to the Creeks, 
Robertson decided upon a personal visit to Piomingo, to 
induce him to make pacific overtures to his mortified 
enemies. With the Chickasaw king he found Don Ga- 


yoso, the Spanish commandant at Natchez, who, to Rob- 
ertson's surprise, expressed as strong a desire as he him- 
self felt that the hostile nations should resume peaceful 
relations. He approved of Robertson's suggestion of a 
friendly embassy to the Creeks from the Chickasaws. 
To this Piomingo promptly assented, and, calling in his 
white secretary, he dictated to him, in their presence, an 
address to the ^^ head-men, chiefs, and warriors, of the 
great and brave nation of the Talapouches." The paper 
was adroitly phrased to heal the wounded pride of the 
Creeks, and it offered a free exchange of prisoners, and 
lasting friendship with his brave red brothers the Creeks. 
The address being approved by Robertson and 
the Spanish gentleman, Piomingo dispatched runners 
throughout the nation to call his chiefs and principal 
warriors together to a great council at Big Town. They 
came to the number of several hundreds, and when they 
were all assembled, and Piomingo had made them a 
short speech in their own language, his secretary pro- 
ceeded to translate his address to the Creek nation. It 
was unanimously approved, and then being signed by Pio- 
mingo and his principal warriors — all but he and Colbert 
signing with a cross — it was certified by the secretary. 
Then, at the suggestion of Robertson, a few words of ap- 
proval were added to the paper, and it was signed by 
himself and Gayoso. This being done, mounted messen- 
gers, armed only with a pipe of peace, were, on the 13 th 
of June, 1795, dispatched with the paper into the Creek 
nation. On the 27th of the ensuing July the messengers 


returned with the following answer : '^ We have smoked 
your tobacco in token of peace. We desire to bury the 
war-hatchet forever. Let war cease among the red-men. 
As a proof of friendship, do you deliver to General Eob- 
ertson all Creek prisoners, and restrain your young men 
from rash acts. We will do likewise." 

Piomingo promptly sent to Robertson the prisoners 
he had taken from the Creeks, who went into camp un- 
der the tall maples that grew about his station to await 
the arrival of those who were to be returned to the Chicka- 
saws. They came at last, and then all went to their re- 
spective nations. Tiiis Robertson regarded as an end of 
the war between the red-men, and it doubtless would 
have been, had not that ugly word, *'Nockiny-ho-bocks," 
still rankled in the breasts of the younger braves of the 
Creek nation. The older warriors desired peace, and, 
for reasons to be soon explained, it was urgently pressed 
upon them by their good friends the Spaniards. But 
the mortified pride of the younger men could not be ap- 
peased until they had wiped out the disgrace of their 
hasty stampede from Log Town. To do this they were 
resolved ; but they kept their own counsel, and so secretly 
did they go about their preparations that it was weeks 
before they were suspected by their chieftains, much less 
by Piomingo. 

Convinced by the return of the prisoners that the 
Creeks were acting in good faith, the Chickasaw king 
disbanded his warriors, and allowed every one to return, 
with his wife and children, to his cabin or his wigwam. 


He and about three hundred of his braves dwelt at Bijr 
Town ; and he was there with no thoujjht of danofer, 
when one morning about tlie middle of September, the 
place was suddenly surrounded by about a thousand yell- 
ing Talapouches. The assault was so unexpected, that 
for a few moments all was confusion, during which six 
men, and one woman of the Chickasaws, were slaughtered. 
But Piomingo was not merely a brave man, he was a sol- 
dier and a general. Quickly he rallied his three hundred 
warriors, and rushed with such fury upon the Creeks, 
that, overborne by the fierce attack, they soon fled, 
leaving twenty-six of their warriors dead upon the 
ground, and bearing away a much larger number of 

In a report of this fight which Piomingo sent to Rob- 
ertson, he said: '^ About a thousand Creeks came to 
destroy the Chickasaw nation. They had some white 
people with them ; they came with drums, and had prep- 
arations to make a siege and capture of Log Town, and 
of other places. A great many came on horseback. The 
Chickasaws of Big Town fell on them, put them to rout, 
pursued them about five miles, took all their baggage 
and clothing — except their flaps — the only clothing they 
had on when they began the attack." 

In reply to this cheerful dispatch, Robertson wrote to 
Piomingo that after inflicting upon them such another 
crushing defeat, he could well afford to again offer peace 
to the Talapouches. Piomingo did so, and with many 
expressions of regret for the bad conduct of their young 


men, his peace-pipe was accepted by the head-men of the 
Creek nation. Peace came also to the long-distressed 
settlers along the Cumberland. No longer was wail- 
ing heard in all the land, wives lamenting for hus- 
bands, and mothers for children, struck down by the 
merciless tomahawk of a savage enemy. After fifteen 
years of a darkness more terrible than, either before 
or since, has afflicted any portion of the American 
people, day at last dawned upon these heroic pioneers, 
awaking a joy such as can be felt only by those who have 
experienced such a long night of horrors. Of the causes 
which led to this happy result I shall speak in the con- 
cluding chapter. 



The sudden change of front on the part of the Span- 
iards, which is indicated by the action of Don Gayoso, 
calls for explanation. In May, 1793, M. Genet had ap- 
peared at Philadelphia, as minister from the French Re- 
public, which was then at war with Spain. He was 
received with enthusiasm by the American people gen- 
erally, a large majority of whom felt grateful to France 
for her aid in the Revolution, and sympathized strongly 
in her effort to establish free institutions in Europe. 
Taking advantage of this almost universal feeling. Genet 
proceeded, in defiance of the remonstrances of Washing- 
ton and his Cabinet, to recruit men, and fit out privateers 
in American ports for active war upon the enemies of 
France. He knew that Louisiana was more French than 
Spanish, and that a large portion of its population would 
gladly come under the domination of France ; and he was 
also well acquainted with the universal discontent exist- 
ing at the West in consequence of the occlusion of the 
Mississippi. In these circumstances he deemed that it 


would be an easy task to recruit in Kentucky and Ten- 
nessee a force which should descend the Mississippi, and, 
with the aid of the disaffected French population, wrest 
Louisiana from Spain, and erect it into an independent 
republic in alliance with and under the protection of 
France. To this end he dispatched active and intelligent 
agents to the West to inflame the people, and recruit vol- 
unteers for an armed expedition down the Mississippi. 
Chief among these agents was Auguste de la Chaise, a 
gentleman of French extraction, but a native of Louisi- 
ana, and a member of one of its most influential fami- 
lies. He was a man of exquisite address, ready elo- 
quence, rare ability, and peculiarly fitted to act upon 
the fiery and adventurous spirits who then composed a 
large portion of the border population. He entered 
upon his work with enthusiastic zeal, organizing at once 
Jacobin clubs in the larger towns, and enlisting in the 
/ enterprise George Kogers Clark, who had not then lost 
all his early popularity. 

Eeceiving a commission as major-general from the 
French minister, Clark issued a call for volunteers, and 
in a very brief time more than two thousand men flocked 
to his standard. The Jacobin clubs also bore early fruit 
in a convention of citizens which met at Lexington, Ken- 
tucky, on the 24th of May, 1794. This convention was 
presided over by so genuine a friend of the Union as 
Judge George Muter, but it passed resolutions breathing 
nothing but war, and addressed a remonstrance '^to the 
President and Congress of the United States," which, to 


say the least, was of a most decided and energetic charac- 
ter. As this remonstrance is beyond question a correct 
index to the popular feeling at this period, a portion of 
it is here given. 

After enumerating the wrongs inflicted upon the 
West by Great Britain, in the retention of the North- 
western posts, and the arming and encouraging of the 
Northern Indians in their depredations upon the fron- 
tier, the paper goes on to say : ''That these injuries and 
insults call loudly for redress, and that we will, to the 
utmost of our abilities, and in any mode that can be de- 
vised, support the General Government in the firmest 
and most effectual measures to obtain full satisfaction 
for all our wrongs. 

''That your remonstrants, and the other inhabitants 
of the United States west of the Alleghany and Appa- 
lachian Mountains, are entitled by Nature and stipula- 
tion to the free and undisturbed navigation of the river 
Mississippi ; and that, from the year 1783 to this day, 
they have been uniformly prevented by the Spanish king 
from exercising that right. Your remonstrants have ob- 
served with concern that the General Government, whose 
duty it was to have preserved that right, have used no 
effectual measures for its attainment ; that even their 
tardy and ineffectual negotiations have been veiled with 
the most mysterious secrecy ; that that secrecy is a vio- 
lation of the political rights of the citizen, as it de- 
clares that the people are unfit to be intrusted with 
important facts relative to their rights, and that their 


servants may retain from them the knowledge of these 

" Eight years are surely sufficient for the discussion 
of the most doubtful and disputable claims. The right 
to the navigation of the Mississippi admits of neither 
doubt nor dispute. Your remonstrants represent^, there- 
fore, that the negotiations on that subject have been un- 
necessarily lengthy, and they expect that it be demanded 
categorically of the Spanish king whether he will ac- 
knowledge the right of the citizens of the United States 
to the free and uninterrupted navigation of the river 
Mississippi, and cause all obstructions, interrujotions, 
and hindrances to the exercise of that right in future to 
be withdrawn and avoided ; that immediate answer 
thereto be required, and that such answer be the final 
period of all negotiations on that subject. 

**Your remonstrants further represent that the en- 
croachments of the Spaniards upon the territory of the 
United States " (at Chickasaw Bluffs and elsewhere) ^'is a 
striking and melancholy proof of the situation to which 
our country will be reduced, if a tame policy should still 
continue to direct its councils. 

"Your remonstrants join their voices to those of their 
fellow-citizens in the Atlantic States, calling for satisfac- 
tion for the injuries and insults offered to America, and 
they expect that such satisfaction shall extend to every 
injury and insult done or offered to any part of America 
by Great Britain and Spain ; and as the detention of the 
posts, and the interruption of the navigation of the Mis- 


sissippi, are injuries and insults of the greatest atrocity 
and of the longest duration, they require the most par- 
ticular attention to these subjects. 

"Your remonstrants declare that it is the duty of the 
General Government to protect the frontiers, and that 
the total want of protection which is now experienced by 
every part of the Western frontier is a grievance of the 
greatest magnitude, and demands immediate redress."* 

There could be no mistaking the spirit which actuated 
this address. The West had, in fact, reached the last 
limit of peaceable endurance. It was tired of the inac- 
tivity of the General Government, and worn out with the 
smooth duplicity and secret animosity of the Spanish 
officials. Everywhere the people were as dry tinder 
ready for ignition, and it needed only the spark now 
thrown among them by De la Chaise to produce a general 
conflagration. This is shown by the crowds that rapidly 
flocked to Clark's headquarters, and the armed bands 
that everywhere gathered, even as far south as the south- 
ern frontier of Georgia. A large majority of the Creek 
warriors were also burnishing up their Spanish rifles to 
take part in the extermination of their old friends the 
Spaniards. It might have been accounted poetic justice 
had they thus turned his own weapons against the per- 
fidious Spanish Governor. 

Carondelet was thoroughly alarmed. From paid spies 
like Wilkinson and Sebastian he had early intelligence of 

* "Knoxville Gazette" of June 19, 1794 


the threatening attitude of the Western people, and 
greatly he feared that the spring flood would bring an 
irresistible force down the Mississippi, to sweep him and 
his six thousand badly trained and disaffected militia 
into the Gulf of Mexico. The time was short and the 
danger imminent, but Oarondelet did not sleep at his 
post. With all his remarkable energy he set to work to 
strengthen the fortifications of New Orleans, and drill 
his forces for the expected conflict. Then he attempted 
the pacification of his Indian allies, and instructed 
Gayoso to heal, at any cost, the breach between the 
Creeks and the Chickasaws. They should not be al- 
lowed to scalp one another, when every barbarian of 
them all might soon be needed to protect the sacred 
dominions of ''His Catholic Majesty" against the en- 
croaching Americans. In this, as we have seen, Gayoso 
succeeded, through the influence of Robertson and the 
magnanimity of Piomingo. 

But, not content with preparations for defense, Ca- 
rondelet now sought to disarm the Western men by that 
favorite Spanish weapon — diplomacy. De la Chaise had 
succeeded in setting the Western prairies on fire, but he 
would build a counter-fire, which should burn out the 
Frenchmen, and leave the Spanish donricile unscorched. 
All at once he laid aside the haughty tone in which he 
had chided Robertson for sending a toy cannon to Pio- 
mingo, and became wonderfully friendly and fraternal. 
He opened the gates of the Mississippi, and invited the 
planters to enter New Orleans, and accept specie for their 


bacon and tobacco ; and he renewed Wilkinson's mag- 
nificent scheme of a Western republic in alliance with 

Money is a powerful persuader, and Carondelet knew 
that some of the Kentuckians were open to that kind of 
persuasion. But Miro had erred in dealing out his gold 
in niggardly pensions ; Carondelet would offer enough 
to buy up every public man in Tennessee and Kentucky. 
One hundred thousand dollars down, and no questions 
asked, were the terms which he offered through a special 
messenger — one Thomas Power — whom he now dis- 
patched to Gayoso. Such further sums of money, and 
such arms and ammunition, as might be needed in case 
of hostilities with the older States, were also to be forth- 

Wilkinson was absent at Cincinnati, but Power put 
himself in communication with the other traitors, who, 
in 1788, would have sold the West for a mess of Spanish 
pottage. They were afraid to meet the Spanish envoy 
at New Madrid, but deputed Judge Sebastian to do so. 
Gayoso did not feel at liberty to accede to all of Sebas- 
tian's demands, and invited him to a personal conference 
with Carondelet at New Orleans. He went ; but, while 
he was there, other events occurred which rendered nuga- 
tory this second attempt to swing the West into the arms 
of Spain. 

The call of George Eogers Clark for troops had no 
sooner reached the ears of the Spanish minister, than he 
remonstrated against it to the State Department, and 


tliereuj^on Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, wrote to 
Governor Shelby, urging the exercise of his authority to 
prevent the proposed hostile invasion of a friendly power. 
To this request Shelby replied as follows: *^ There are 
great doubts, even if they " (the agents of Genet) "do at- 
tempt to carry their plan into execution (provided they 
manage their business with prudence), whether there is 
any legal authority to restrain or punish them, at least be- 
fore they have actually accomplished it ; for, if it is lawful 
for one citizen of this State to leave it, it is equally so for 
any number of them to do so. It is also lawful for them to 
carry with them any quantity of provisions, arms, and am- 
munition ; and if the act is lawful in itself, there is noth- 
ing in the particular intention with which it is done that 
can possibly make it unlawful. But I know of no law 
which inflicts a punishment on intention only, or a cri- 
terion by which to decide what would be sufficient evi- 
dence of that intention if it was a legal object of censure. 
I shall, upon all occasions, be averse to the exercise of 
any power with which I do not consider myself as being 
clearly and explicitly invested ; much less would I as- 
sume a power to exercise it against men whom I consider 
as friends and brethren, in favor of a man whom I view 
as an enemy and a tyrant." He added, however, that 
whatever his opinions might be as a man, he should, as 
a citizen of the Union, and the Governor of Kentucky, 
hold himself at all times bound to obey the reasonable 
commands of the President of the United States. 

Shelby was too sensible a man to believe in his own 


logic. His arguments merely show that he favored the 
movement to drive the Spaniards from Louisiana, and in 
this he shared the sentiments of the best men in Ken- 
tucky. They regarded the expedition as an easy means 
of ridding the West of a pestiferous neighbor, without 
embroiling the country in a war with Spain. At a sub- 
sequent period Shelby stated that his object in writing 
this letter was to draw from the Government a frank 
statement of the real state of its negotiations with Spain. 
It had this result. Washington, soon afterward, dis- 
patched James Innis, a member of the State Department, 
to Kentucky, with instructions to disclose to the Gov- 
ernor all the steps which were being taken to secure the 
navigation of the Mississippi. The whole subject was, 
on November 13, 1794, laid by Shelby before the Legis- 
lature of Kentucky, which fully approved of the course 
he had taken. Then a proclamation was issued by the 
President, forbidding the sailing of the expedition, and, 
this being now actively seconded by Shelby, the lawless 
attempt was abandoned. 

However, this hostile demonstration, and the un- 
friendly attitude of Shelby, had a powerful effect upon 
the Spanish Cabinet. It aroused them to a sense of the 
danger. With a hostile feeling so universal at the West, 
and the Governor of Kentucky so open in avowing his 
enmity to Spain, it was now clear to them that, if her 
North American possessions were to be retained, the 
border population must be conciliated by the opening of 
the Mississippi. Accordingly, the Spanish Cabinet in- 


vifced the United States Government to send an envoy 
to Madrid, witli full powers to arrange all questions be- 
tween the two countries. The result was the treaty of 
October 27, 1795, which declared the Mississippi forever 
free to American commerce. 

But the Spaniards intended this treaty only as a tem- 
porary expedient to ward off a pressing danger. They 
continued their efforts to alienate the West from the 
Union ; and as late as 1797, Carondelet again sent 
Thomas Power into Kentucky with even more favorable 
proposals to the traitors of 1788. The document which 
the Spanish governor addressed to the Kentucky gentle- 
men, is a curious illustration of what the Spaniards of 
that day entitled '' diplomacy." One of its paragraphs 
is worth copying. In it Carondelet says : 

"The important and unexpected events that have 
taken place in Europe since the ratification of the treaty 
concluded on the 27th of October, 1795, between his 
Catholic Majesty and the United States of America, hav- 
ing convulsed the general system of politics in that 
quarter of the globe, and wherever its influence is ex- 
tended, causing a collision of interests between nations 
formerly living in the most perfect union and harmony, 
and directing the political views of some states toward 
objects the most remote from their former pursuits ; but 
none being so completely unhinged and disjointed as the 
Cabinet of Spain, it may be confidently asserted, without 
incurring the reproach of presumption, that his Catholic 
Majesty will not carry the above-mentioned treaty into 


execution ; nevertheless, the thorough knowledge I have 
of the disposition of the Spanish Government justifies 
me in saying that, so far from its being his Majesty's wish 
to exclude the inhabitants of this Western country from 
the free navigation of the Mississippi, or withhold from 
them any of the benefits stipulated for them by the treaty, 
it is positively his intention, as soon as they shall put it 
in his power to treat with them, by declaring them- 
selves independent of the Federal Government and estab- 
lishing one of their own, to grant them privileges far 
more extensive, give them a decided preference over the 
Atlantic States in his commercial connections with them, 
and place them in a situation infinitely more advanta- 
geous, in every point of view, than that in ivhich they 
would find themselves were the treaty to he carried into 

This was of the seed which Wilkinson had planted, 
but it bore no fruit to the advantage of Spain or to the 
disadvantage of the Union. That it did not was due 
to Shelby and to the many good men and true who, 
ten years before, had rallied to his side to preserve the 
integrity of the country. Favorable circumstances 
thwarted the intended bad faith of the Spaniards, and 
the navigation of the Mississippi was never again a sub- 
ject of serious concern to the border settlements. 

During the few months that preceded and that fol- 
lowed the signing of the Spanish treaty, several events 
occurred which had a more or less direct bearing upon 


the peace and prosperity of the little colony along the 
Cumberland. Among these events were the consolida- 
tion of a firm central goYernment by the energy and wis- 
dom of Washington ; Wayne's treaty with the Indians, 
and the surrender of the Northwestern posts by the Brit- 
ish, which secured peace with the Northern tribes ; and 
the admission of Tennessee as a State of the Union and 
the election of John Sevier as its first Governor, which 
led to the burying of the hatchet by the warlike South- 
ern nations. The election of Sevier was of vital impor- 
tance to Eobertson's colony, for it held harmless his old 
enemies the Creeks and Cherokees till after the '^good 
old Governor" went finally out of office in 1810. ^^His 
name is a terror to the savages" ; "worth more to us than 
any single regiment of men," said Governor Blount and 
Secretary Smith in their dispatches to the War Depart- 
ment* while yet Sevier was subject to the orders of supe- 
riors. But the moment the Indians knew that Sevier 
was at the head of a population of a hundred thousand, 
and free to act upon his own judgment, they understood 
that any further indulgence in midnight rapine and 
butchery would be the signal for their own extermina- 
tion. The Great Eagle of the pale-faces was a faithful 
friend but an irresistible enemy. They wisely preferred 
his friendship to his enmity, and the consequence was 
that white men and red dwelt together in unity, and 
universal peace reigned along the border. 

* See " American State Papers," vol. v, pp. 433, 622. 


In this reign of peace the Cumberland colony pros- 
pered, and prospered to an extent that has had no paral- 
lel in this country — not even in Kentucky. In both war 
and peace its career was to be the most unique in Ameri- 
can history. During fifteen years of the bloodiest conflict 
its heroic pioneers withstood and finally conquered twenty 
times their number of savage enemies, and then they 
turned their giant energies to the subjugation of the wil- 
derness. Out of the trackless forest they hewed thriving 
towns, beautiful villages, and populous cities, which in 
ten years held 25,000 people, in fifty years 490,424, and 
to-day contain more than one half the population of the 
great State of Tennessee. And the initial impulse which 
produced all these marvelous results proceeded from that 
one man — James Robertson. 

After resigning from the United States Army, Eob- 

ertson never held any official position except that of 

agent for the Choctaws and Chickasaws. This office he 

retained because of his fatherly feeling for those Indians 

who had stood by him through all the darkest days of 

the Cumberland colony. All other office he persistently 

refused. In 1810, when Sevier, after serving twelve 

years as Governor, declined any further elections, the 

position was offered to Robertson, but he simply replied, 

" The trade of political governing does not suit my 

genius as well as retirement."' He was indifferent to 

official honors, and had a feeling not unlike contempt 

for the men who sought political station on account of 

its emoluments. " If any one out here," he once said, 


"desires office for the sake of pay, he ought to die of 

But, though during the remaining nineteen years of 
his life merely a private citizen, Robertson was no less 
the patriarch of the rapidly growing settlements. On 
all important occasions his counsel was sought, and Se- 
vier, throughout his long service as Governor, constantly 
consulted him on the affairs of the Commonwealth. 
At the beginning of their career these two men had 
been as hand and brain to one another, and so they 
continued to be till the end. During forty-two years, 
alike when struggling desperately for a mere right to 
exist, and when building together with untried hands a 
great commonwealth, they stood shoulder to shoulder, 
and never in all that time did so much as a momentary 
cloud shadow their relations. It is hard to believe that 
a friendship so devoted and long-continued could have 
existed between them had they not been men of unself- 
ish ends, with a single thought for the good of their 

To the end of his days the relations of Robertson to 
the Choctaws and Chickasaws were of a peculiar char- 
acter. The highest and the lowest among these Indians 
regarded him as their friend and father. Their trust in 
him was unbounded. After a few years Piomingo was 
called to be a great chief in the upper hunting-grounds, 
and was succeeded by his son Chin-nubbe, and at the 
same time John Pitchlyn, of Oak-tibbe-ha, a renowned 
warrior, was head king of the Choctaws ; but the influ- 


ence of neither of these kings was so potent in their 
tribes as that of Robertson. lie never went among them 
without being received with a degree of barbaric pomp 
that would have been grotesque but for the universal 
and heart-felt enthusiasm that attended it. At one time 
he resigned the agency, but was forced to resume it by 
the general clamor of the Indians, and soon afterward he 
visited the Chickasaw country to hold the customary 
*' talks." The chief, George Colbert, addressed him a 
letter on this occasion, which evinces the esteem with 
which he was regarded. He said : 

"My Old Frieis^d akd Father: I am overjoyed 
with the word you send that you are to be the guide of 
our nation, as you have been the life of this nation ; 
and every chief of the Chickasaws, I make no doubt, 
will feel the same as I do. I hope everything will 
prove satisfactory in every council. When you go by 
my house, I will take my horse and ride to the king's 
house and the agency with you." 

In 1806-07 came an alarm of war in consequence of 
the depredations of the Spaniards and English on Ameri- 
can commerce, and Robertson at once organized a corps 
of veterans, chiefly Revolutionary soldiers, whom he 
called "Silver-Grays," and tendered their services to 
Andrew Jackson, who was then major-general of the 
Tennessee militia. The war-cloud passed away, and 
their services not being needed, they were after a while 


disbanded. In the order dismissing his troops Jackson 
made the following reference to this '' Silver Gray " corps : 
*^When the insolence or vanity of the Spanish Govern- 
ment shall dare to repeat their insults on our flag, or 
shall dare to violate the sacred obligations of the good 
faith of treaties ; or should the disorganizing traitor at- 
tempt the dismemberment of our country, or criminal 
breach of our laws, let me ask what will be the effect of 
the example given by a tender of service made by such 
men as compose the InvinciUe Grays, commanded, too, 
by the father of our infant State, General James Robert- 

In 1811 Tecumseh made his great attempt to com- 
bine all the Northern and Southern Indians in a war 
against the United States. He had already seduced the 
Creeks, and it was feared that the war spirit would spread 
among the Choctaws and Chickasaws. In these circum- 
stances the Government requested Kobertson to make his 
residence for the time being among those tribes, and en- 
deavor to hold them to their allegiance. He was in his 
seventieth year, and subject to violent attacks of neural- 
gia, which had undermined his general health and greatly 
debilitated his system, but he did not hesitate a moment 
to leave a luxurious home, and, in the service of his 
country, to encounter again the hardships of the wilder- 
ness. To the friends and neighbors who at his setting 
out gathered about him to bid him '^ God-speed " on his 
journey, he said: ^'1 know I am getting to be an old 
man. I can not delude myself with the idea that I am 


young, or with the hope that in this life my days and 
being will turn backward, and carry me from age through 
reversed stages down to childhood again. I may not do 
all the good I design. My heart is warm and full, though 
my limbs are not so very supple. As some of you have 
said, I may not live to return and settle down again 
quietly at home. Older men than I have found the post 
of duty away from their pleasant firesides, and where 
duty calls there is home." 

He not only held the Choctaws and Chickasaws to 
their allegiance, but he enlisted large numbers of them in 
the United States Army, and built the two nations into 
a solid wall between the Creeks and the hostile Northern 
Indians. His constant presence among the Indians being 
indispensable, he sent for his wife to bear him company, 
asking her to bring at the same time a feather-bed and 
some bedding. In his letter to her he said: "Should 
you come, I will give you the very best chance for rest 
and sleep which the bed will afford, 'provided always' 
that you allow me to retain a part of the same." 

His wife found him much exhausted by overwork, 
and debilitated by his neuralgic disease and the infirmi- 
ties natural to his seventy-two years. Early in August, 
1814, he began to fail rapidly. He had not strength 
to mount a horse, and could walk about only with great 
difficulty. Soon the least noise grew painful to him, 
sharp pains shot through his head, and his brain seemed 
burning up with a constant fire ; then his breathing be- 
came heavy and distressing, and on the morning of Sep- 


tember first he sank into a prolonged sleep, from which 
he awoke only to find himself in that grand company of 
great and good men who had, like him, given their lives 
for their country and Christian civilization. He was a 
true man, a pnre patriot, a genuine Christian hero ; and 
when we come to measure greatness by the New Testa- 
ment standard of unswerving fidelity to duty and un- 
selfish devotion to the good of our fellow-men, it will 
be admitted that there have been few greater men in 
American history than James Robektsok. 


The statement in the text I had from Dr. J. G. M. 
Ramsey, who had received it in detail from John Sevier 
himself, with whom he was on terms of the closest in- 
timacy from early childhood till he was of the age of 
eighteen, when Sevier died. Dr. Ramsey informed me 
that Sevier was very fond of young people, and that it 
was his custom in his old age to gather them about him 
and tell to them the story of his campaigns by the hour 
together. It was thus that Ramsey imbibed that fond- 
ness for pioneer history which bore fruit in his '' Annals 
of Tennessee." 

The first letter which Sevier addressed to Don Gar- 
doqui was dated about June 1, 1788 ; a second was writ- 
ten by him on July 18th, and two others on September 
12th following. Of the first two letters no trace is to be 
found among the papers of Gardoqui ; the last two have 
been very recently discovered in the Spanish archives, and 
been copied for John Mason Brown, Esq., of Louisville 
(great-grandson of John Brown, first United States Sena- 
tor from Kentucky), who has very courteously furnished 
them to me for publication in this volume. For the ap- 
pended translation of these letters I am indebted to the 
kindness of that accomplished Spanish scholar, Prof. W. 


I. Knapp, of Yale University, who prefaces it as fol- 
lows : 

"The so-called Spanish original is almost unintelligi- 
ble by the ignorance of the copyist, and was at first poorly 
written. Correcting the text at almost every word, and 
supplying what is omitted, the translation would be some- 
thing as follows " : 

Franklin, September 12, 1788. 

Sir : Since my last of July 18 th, I have been particu- 
larly happy to find, on consulting with the leading sub- 
jects (sugetos for siiMitos) of this country, that they are 
equally disposed and favorable as I am toward the pro- 
posals and assurances that you offer. 

You may rest assured that the sincere hopes and views 
cherished by this people, respecting the future [the word 
unintelligiUe] and concession for trade with you, are very 
decided, and that we are unanimously resolved on the 

The people of this country have truly come to under- 
stand on what part of the world and on what nation their 
prospective happiness and security depend, and are quick 
to see that their interests and prosperity wholly consist 
in the protection and liberality of your government. We 
must expect by our position and circumstances that we 
shall be led in a most efficacious way to look for the con- 
tinued security and prosperity of your government in 
America, and, being the first to apply to your protection 
and liberality on this side of the Apalache Mountains, we 
are encouraged to cherish the liveliest hope that all the 
aid may be furnished us by him who can so effectually 
supply it, and the protection be granted which is asked 
for in this our appeal. 

You are acquainted with our country, the situation 
and embarrassments in which we live with respect to our 


mother-State, which makes use of every stratagem to pre- 
vent the advance and prosperity of this country. Not- 
withstanding we possess some of the most fertile lands 
on the continent, and every facility for exports, still we 
are not able to dispose of a single article produced (which 
might be made almost unlimited) without authority to 
make use of our rivers leading to the seaboard (puertos 
de ahajo). 

In view of these difficulties, you can easily infer the 
great scarcity of specie that exists in tliis country, of 
which there is so little among us. Nothing else is want- 
ing to secure our mutual interest but a moderate [sup- 
ply ?] of this article (the amount of which I leave to your 
prudent judgment) and of other military auxiliaries 
which you may consider necessary and expedient [to sup- 
ply us with]. All that is needed to secure what we desire 
will not exceed a few thousands of pounds. We are en- 
couraged more to make this [request r] by the knowledge 
you possess that we can pay promptly for what you may 
furnish us in the products of this country at the sea- 
board. I hope that the payment may be made on the 
easiest terms possible, and that the guarantees and re- 
ceipts of my son Diego Sevier (who is secretary) will 
hold us both— myself as well as the State of Franklin — 
until they are paid and fully satisfied. I do not doubt 
that the aid asked for will be considered as a trifle taken 
from your chests (or treasury), especially if the important 
object is considered for which it is to be used, and since 
we can reimburse so soon the sum advanced, and for 
which we shall remain under lasting obligations of grati- 
tude and friendship. 

We are determined, as far as possible, that you [unin- 
teUigible], and when you see the advantages that will cer- 
tainly accrue from this grant, you i^ill see that our inter- 


ests flow along the same channel, and will be lasting and 
inseparable. We are interested in making the most rapid 
and effective preparations for defense. If any interrup- 
tion in our relations [with Spain ?] should occur, we must 
be ready in time, the reasons for which are necessarily 
quite obvious. Therefore, no more need be said on the 
subject, and I beg you will let me know from time to 
time, whenever an opportunity offers and circumstances 
require. I leave to your discretion any other more availa- 
ble mode of communication that may present itself, and 
for the remaining matters I refer you to my son Diego 
(James), who is a person competent to give all information 
touching the Western country. 

Before I conclude, it may be necessary to state that 
there will be no more favorable opportunity than the 
present to put the plan in action, as North Carolina has 
rejected the Constitution, and a considerable time will 
elapse before she comes to be a member of the Union, if 
ever. I must beg you the favor to provide Diego with 
what may be thought useful for us. If a passport could 
be secured, it would be of great advantage for this coun- 
try, because it is probable that some of us may find it 
expedient to go down to the Spanish seaports, and, if 
produce is permitted to be sent from this region, it would 
be a matter of great importance to us. 

I have the honor to be, sir, with great esteem and 
consideration, your most obedient servant, 

(Signed) Johk Sevier. 

To Don Diego de Gardoqui, Spanish Minister. 


No. 2. 

Franklin, September 12, 17S8. 

Sir : Allow me to inform you that for the past few 
months the people of this country have been at war with 
the Cherokee nation of Indians, and have [unintelligible^ 
in a great measure [unintelligible']. It is probable that 
this nation (the Cherokees) will apply to the Creeks, 
Choctaws, and Chickasaws, to form an alhanee for the 
purpose of carrying on the war still further, in case they 
can effect it. I trust that we shall not be considered 
troublesome and impertinent in requesting in our behalf 
the intervention of the Minister with reference to those 
tribes, and that he inform them that the Cherokees have 
continued the war with all liberty, frequently committing 
murders and other acts of hostility against citizens of this 
country, and that if the inhabitants thereof should form 
new settlements on the Tennessee or near the banks of 
the river [ivliat follows is unintelligible because badly 
copied]. That his Catholic Majesty disposed (?) to favor 
them, reconciling {conciliating) their minds and maintain- 
ing peace with all the tribes of Indians found under the 
protection and control of Spain. 

You can assure those tribes of Indians that the peo- 
ple of this country are firmly resolved to live in peace 
with them, and never had the thought of passing into 
their territory or in any way [to disturb them ?]. 

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient and 
humble servant, 

(Signed) John Sevier. 

Sr. D. Diego de Gardoqui, Minister of Spain. 

It is probable that the two letters were written in 
Spanish by Sevier himself, and hence are not models of lin- 


gual correctness. The concluding paragraph of the first 
is quoted by Gayarre as evidence that there was an under- 
standing between Sevier and Gardoqui that the State of 
Franklin should be swung into the arms of Spain. The 
letter, as a whole, will bear no such construction. It 
simply shows that Sevier had concluded a commercial 
transaction with the Spanish minister — arranged for sup- 
plies which he sorely needed — merely on his promise to 
pay for them at a future time, and to live in friendly re- 
lations with the Spaniards. At this period Sevier was a 
penniless man and an outlaw, and fighting, with only a 
handful of men, to protect the French Broad settlers 
against the whole Cherokee nation. He was short of 
ammunition, and cut off from further supplies by the 
unfriendly action of North Carolina, which had aban- 
doned the settlers to destruction. He could obtain no 
supplies except from Spain, and Spain had armed and 
incited to war the very savages whom he was fighting. 
Without ammunicion, he was at the mercy of the Chero- 
kees, and that he had the address to obtain it from the 
very nation that was arming and inciting his enemies, is 
most extraordinary. As a feat in diplomacy it is as re- 
markable as some of Sevier's astonishing military achieve- 


Notes by Hon. Randall M. Ewing, of Tennessee. 

Page 4. — " The place is heautiful for situafioti.'*^ It 
is a peculiarity of the geological formation of Middle 
Tennessee that the entire surface seems to be broken into 
deep, bowl-like alluvial basins, surrounded on all sides by 
rims of hills, which, as soon as crossed, bring us into 
other of these bowl-like valleys. lu one of these Nash- 
ville is situated. 

Page 7. — '^ Thewild-turheys.''^ My grand father, Will 
iam Ewing, often told me that, for the first year after the 
settlers landed at the French Lick, the breast of the wild- 
turkey was used as bread, and bear-meat for bacon. 
They made their salt in small quantities by evaporating 
the water of the spring known as the French Lick. 
Bear-meat was regularly cured, salted, and smoked, and 
treated in every respect as bacon. 

Page 20. — " Converting the Bluff into an island." 
Literally so : the place where the fort was located is now 
often entirely surrounded by water. 

Page 25. — '^ The scout Castleman.^' There were two 
brothers — Andrew and Abraham — both famous scouts. 
Andrew was my great-uncle. 


Page 29. — "He ivas Miles Standish, without Ms pu- 
rita7iis7n." If not a Puritan, Robertson was next-door 
neighbor to one — to wit, a Presbyterian. 

Page 43. — "David Hood was a light-hearted young 
fellow.^'' I haA^e heard my grandfather relate this story 
more than once : The process devised by these men to 
cause the skin to grow again upon the scalped head in- 
volved an experience which showed that the young man 
must have had ten lives. To produce a new covering, 
the skull was bored through in several places, by a gim- 
let invented for the purpose by a blacksmith, whose name 
I do not recall. 

Page 45. — " Their companions, whose 7iames have not 
come down to us.''' The names of some of these scouts I 
can give, to wit : Abraham and Andrew Castleman, 
William Ewing, and Wiley, or John Roy ; also John and 
Andrew Buchanan, already mentioned. Roy was a great 
tobacco-chewer, and the saliva was constantly running 
from the corners of his mouth. Abe Castleman prophe- 
sied that, if Roy were ever shot, it would be in the mouth, 
and this was singularly fulfilled. Roy and Castleman be- 
ing out on a scout, Roy was shot through the cheeks 
while stooping to drink at a spring, which caused his 
mouth to leak worse than ever. To this I can testify, for 
he lived to a great age. 

Page 63. — " Court of Common Pleas and Quarter 
•Sessions.^' Of this court my great-grandfather, Andrew 
Ewing — who Putnam, in his history, says was the right 
arm and faithful and wise counselor of General Robertson 
— was the first clerk ; and, descending from father to son, 
the office remained in the family until about 1848. 

Page 64. — "Furnished with lenches.'''' The first 
judge, I have heard, sat upon an elevated three-leg- 
ged stool, without any back. This stool was long pre- 

^ APPENDIX B. 337 

served, and in use by the Clerk of the Circuit Court in his 

Page 64. — '' Roofs of claphoards.^^ These clapboards 
were not nailed on, but weighted down with heavy beams, 
or logs laid on the ends of the boards. 

Page 68. — ^^ One dollar per gallon.'''' A law was also 
enacted, fixing the charges of tavern or inn-keepers. If 
rum floated melted tallow, they could charge only six- 
pence the fluid pint ; if the tallow sank to the bottom, 
they could exact eightpence. 

Page 70. — " Three axes and fioo coiv-beUs." My grand- 
father gave three hundred and twenty acres for a plow- 
horse, and claimed to the last day of his life that it was 
the best trade he ever made. The land was six miles south 
of Nashville. Another of my ancestors bouglit twenty- 
four hundred aCres with a buffalo-cow and a calf. 

Page 71. — ^' Those pioneer preachers.''^ Among the 
pioneer divines is one whose name ought to be rescued 
from the oblivion with which it is threatened. lie was 
the intimate friend of General Jackson, and I have my- 
self heard "Old Hickory " say that he was one of the 
most eloquent men he had ever heard speak or preach in 
his life. This man was the Rev. Gideon Blackburn, an 
ancestor of Governor Blackburn, of Kentucky. He was 
the first President of the Williamson County Academy. 

Page 73. — '^ A loagon-road from Clinch River to 
Nashville.'' One of the gaps in the mountains through 
which this road passed is still known as the '* Cumber- 
land Gap," and it figured largely as a strategic position 
in our late civil war. It was the Gibraltar that separated 
Tennessee and Kentucky from southwest Virginia. 

Page 182. — '' The correspondence hetiuecn Robertson 
and McGillivray.'' My excellent old friend A. W. Put- 
nam, the historian, thought that these papers, as well as 


many other Taluable — or rather invaluable — ones, could 
be found among the papers of Andrew Ewing, my ances- 
tor, in whose handwriting most of General Robertson's 
state papers were written. I have made repeated efforts 
to trace and get possession of this rich mine of unwrit- 
ten history, thinking that I might be able to aid you in 
your (then prospective) book. I fear that the papers 
have been irretrievably lost. 

Page 188. — " A?i ortliography equally as originaV^ 
General Jackson sent into Nashville on one occasion for 
some half-hose for himself, and wrote to the storekeeper 
to send '* half a dozen pairs of 'sox.'" The merchant 
laughed at the spelling, and spoke of it so that it came 
to General Jackson's ears. The next time Jackson met 
the merchant, he said to him, '* If s-o-x doesn't spell 
socks, what in the devil does it spell ?" 

Page 221. — '^ Tlie first alarm was given hy the friglit- 
ened cattle.'''^ It was a singular fact, of which I have 
heard my grandfather often speak, that the horses and 
cattle of the settlers frequently gave the first warning of 
the approach of the red-men. He thought they had 
learned the peculiar odor of the war-paint. 

Page 221. — "Buchanan's Station." I saw the old 
block-house at Kuchanan's Station before it was pulled 
down. It was two stories high, the upper story extend- 
ing over the sides of the lower about four feet, with port- 
holes commanding the entrance. 

Page 222. — " Mrs. Buchanan." My grandfather was 
in this fight, and he has frequently told me that Mrs. 
Sally Buchanan molded bullets on that occasion till after 
midnight, and at the break of day on the following morn- 
ing gave birth to a son. That son — Moses Buchanan — 
died only last year in Franklin, Tennessee. 


Alleghanies, character of the first 
settlers west of, and importance 
of the work they did in the Rev- 
olution, and subsequently, 1,2; 
emigration of three hundred and 
eighty from Watauga to the 
present site of Nashville in 1780, 
3 ; they form a military organi- 
zation and a civil government, 
5, 11. 

Appeal of the Territorial Legisla- 
ture to Congress, 114. 

Aranda, Count of, prime minister 
of Spain, prophetic declaration 
of, 78-80. 

Backwoods household, description 
of a, 202. 

Bledsoe, Anthony, settles at Castal- 
ian Springs, 61 ; elected to the Gen- 
eral Assembly, 63; his letter to Se- 
vier, 109; killed by the Indians, 
121 ; Robertson's opinion of him, 
122 ; his widow pursued, and 
two sons killed, by the Creeks, 

Bledsoe, Isaac, accompanies Rob- 

ertson to the Cumberland, 6; 
goes with him to Kentucky for 
ammunition, 21 ; his remark on 
hearing of King's ^lountain bat- 
tle, 22 ; heroic determination to 
hold the post, 60 ; killed by the 
Creeks, 247. 

Blount, William, appointed Gov- 
ernor by Washington, 190; his 
description of the Cumberland 
region, 194 ; urges measures for 
the protection of the settlers, 275; 
adopts Robertson's suggestions, 
297; declines responsibility for 
arming the Chickasaws, 3(>i. 

Boone, Daniel, supplies powder and 
lead to Robertson, 22. 

Bounty system of North Carolina, 

Brown, Joseph, goes to the rescue 
of Buchanan's Station, 225 ; 
taken captive by the Indians, 
23 1 ; his experiences among them, 
232-238 ; is liberated by Sevier, 
240 ; removes to near Nashville, 
242 ; enlists under Rains, 243 ; 
wounded by the Indians, 255 ; 


explores a route to Xick-a-Jack, 
280 ; guides the Chickamauga ex- 
pedition, 282 ; encounters the 
old Frenchwoman, 284. 

Buchanan's Station, five men killed 
in erecting, 62 ; heroic repulse of 
700 Indians at, 221-225. 

Burial, first, at Nashville, 1 6. 

Carondelet, Baron de, succeeds Miro 
as Governor of Louisiana, 260 ; 
his energetic character, 261 ; his 
letter to Robertson, 268 ; at- 
tempts to lure Kentucky from 
the Union, 316. 

Carey, James, reports hostile feel- 
ing of Indians, 275. 

Castleman, Abraham, his services 
and character as a scout, 46-48 ; 
at defense of Buchanan's Station, 
221 ; daring raid into the Chicka- 
mauga country, 247-249. 

Chcrokees, make war upon Robert- 
son, 34 ; held in check by Sevier, 
85 ; attack Buchanan's Station, 

Chickasaws, war with, 23 ; their 
subsequent friendship for Rob- 
ertson, 28. 

Chickasaw Bluff (Memphis) taken 
possession of and fortified by the 
Spaniards, 299. 

Chia-chatt-alla, takes Joseph Brown 
prisoner, 231 ; his intrepid death, 

Chickamaugas, their desperate and 
lawless character, 227, 228 ; are 
subdued by Robertson, 279- 

Choctaws, in alliance with Piomin- 

go, and friendly to Robertson, 

Clark, George Rogers, abandons 
Fort Jefferson to aid Robertson, 
22 ; takes prisoner the British 
Governor of Detroit, 39. 

Clark, Daniel, his account of Wil- 
kinson's visit to New Orleans, 
147 ; his remarks to James Madi- 
son, 259. 

Clothing of first settlers, 51. 

Congress, fails to act on petition 
for aid, 277 ; approves of Rob- 
ertson's measures, 292. 

Cold water, town, 87, 91 ; expedi- 
tion, 91-103. 

Colbert, George, Chickasaw chief, 
asks aid of Robertson, 303 ; de- 
fends Log Town, 304 ; granted 
pay by Congress for volunteers, 

Convention, Kentucky, of July 28, 
1788, defeats Wilkinson's trea- 
son, 174. 

Court, established by Robertson, 

• some of its enactments, 66-69. 

Craig, Captain, reports hostile coa- 
htion of Indian tribes, 211. 

Craighead, Rev. Thomas B., settles 
at Nashville, 71. 

Creek Indians, number six thousand 
warriors, 84; form treaty with 
Spaniards for the extermination 
of the settlers, 84 ; constant hos- 
tility of, 117; treaty with, 192. 

Cumberland River, frozen in 1780, 4. 

Currency of Robertson, 69. 

Donelson, John, in command of the 
emigrants who made the perilous 



voyage down the Holston and 
Tennessee, 3, 8 ; elected lieuten- 
ant-colonel, 5 ; father-in-law to 
Andrew Jackson, 7 ; is killed in 
the forest. 

Edmeston, John, resolves to invade 
the Chickamaugas, 220. 

Evans, Major Natbaniel, in com- 
mand of troops tor protection of 
tlie Cumberland colony, 110; dis- 
patched by Sevier to warn Shelby 
of Wilkinson's treason, 173. 

Ewing, Andrew, envoy sent by Rob- 
ertson to McGillivray, 118; is 
clerk of the court, 118 ;> his pa- 
triotic character, 185 (note). 

Fourth of July celebrated at Nash- 
ville, 189. 

Freeland's Station attacked, 26, 

French Lick (Nashville) in 1780, 
described, 45. 

Fruitless overtures to Spain, 205. 

Gamble^ James, a noted fiddler, 203. 

Gayoso, Don de Lamos, Spanish 
commandant at Natchez, his char- 
acter and first interview with Wil- 
kinson, 145-147; petition from 
Cherokees to him, 262 ; accuses 
the Americans of trespassing on 
Indian lands, 300; counsels the 
Chickasaws to make peace with 
the Creeks, 307. 

Godoy. Don Manuel, Spanish prime 
minister, his neglect of Washing- 
ton's overtures, 206-208 ; his 
blundering policy, 208. 

Hamilton, Henry, British Governor 
of Detroit, his plan to extermi- 
nate the Western settlers, 9, 10 ; 
made prisoner, and lodged in 
jail, 10. 

Hall, William, defends Castalian 
Springs at death of Anthony 
Bledsoe, 121 ; heroic conduct at 
Greenfield Station, 248-250. 

Hay, Joseph, the first settler killed 
at Nashville, 15. 

Hayes, Colonel Robert, in command 
of the boat expedition against 
the Chickamaugas, 93. 

Hayes, " Grandma," her heroic de- 
fense of her dwelling, 253. 

Haywood the historian's opinion of 
Robertson, 288, 301. 

Hood, David, his remarkable expe- 
rience, 45. 

Jackson, Andrew, settles at Nash- 
ville, 188; first fight with In- 
dians, 87 ; first appearance on 
the floor of Congress, 305. 

Jefferson, Thomas, his manly atti- 
tude toward Spain, 209. 

Kilpatrick, Colonel, killed and be- 
headed by the Creeks, 217. 

Lucas, Major Robert, killed at 
Freeland's Station, 27. 

Mason boys, heroic exploit of, 42. 
Mansker, Colonel Casper, erects a 

station, 15 ; an efficient scout, 48 ; 

goes to the aid of Piomingo, 303. 
Marshall, Thomas, aids Shelby to 

crush Wilkinson's treason, 176 j 


reports affairs to Washington, 
200; advises Wilkinson's ap- 
pointment in the army, 200, 

McGillivray, Alexander, chief of 
the Creeks, an account of him, 
80-85 ; his treaty with the United 
States, 191 ; his death, 260. 

Miro, Don Estevan, his transactions 
with Wilkinson, 145-180. 

Mississippi River opened to com- 
merce by Wilkinson, 161 ; by 
treaty with Spain, 320. 

Nashville, first settlement of, 4-8 ; 
attack on fort at, 34-38 ; appear- 
ance in 1784, 75. 

Nick-a-Jack, town of, destroyed, 

Oconostota, plans of, 39 ; forewarns 
Boone of hostility from the In- 
dians, 40. 

Primitive churches described, 72. 

Pickering, Secretary of War, ina- 
biUty to understand the needs of 
the Western settlers, 297. 

Piomingo, his friendship for Rob- 
ertson, 85 ; letters to him, 91, 
264, 265; his reported death, 
273 ; joins Wayne's army, 294 ; 
defeats the Creeks, 309. 

Peyton, John, adventure of, 89. 

Rains, John, the Joab of the colo- 
ny, 67 ; heroic resolve to " fight 
it out here," 55 ; on the Cold- 
water expedition, 101 ; goes to 
the rescue of Buchanan's Station, 
224 ; at the destruction of Nick- 
a-jack, 280. 

Robertson, James, the volume, pas- 

Rogan, Hugh, his great physical (En- 
durance, 103 ; his intrepid ex- 
ploit, 121. 

Robertson, Jonathan, his heroic ex- 
ploits, 219, 250. 

Sevier, John, sends aid to Robert- 
son, 111; expresses information 
to Shelby which defeats Wilkin- 
son's treason, 171. 

Sevier, Valentine, three sons of, 
killed by the Creeks, 213, 214; 
his station attacked, 295. 

Scolacutta (Hanging-Maw), attacks 
Robertson, 87 ; friendly to the 
whites, 289. 

Sebastian, Judge Benjamin, a pen- 
sioned traitor, 199. 

Scouts, their important services, 51. 

Shawnees, hostile to Robertson, 
225, 273. 

Shelby, Isaac, saves Kentucky to 
the Union, 169; his action as 
Governor, 318. 

Shelby, Evan, his death, 246. 

Sleet, a remarkable, 32, 33. 

Smith, Brigadier - General Daniel, 
makes overtures to McGillivray, 
183; is Secretary to the Terri- 
tory, 322 ; opinion of Sevier, 322. 

Snake-bite, a bad, 204. 

Tammany Society, its reception of 

McGillivray, 191. 
*' Taking a horn," origin of the 

phrase, 69. 
Tories, Robertson's reception of, 




Ugulayacabe, a traitor to Piomingo, 
264, 272; returns to his allegi- 
ance, 293. 

Washington, George, his action, 190, 

Wilkinson, James, his early career, 
138-143; his treason, 145, 181; 
enters the United States Army, 

Wedding, first, at Nashville, 18. 







A Sequel to " The Rear-Guard of the Revolution." 


(Edmlxd Kibkej. 

Each work i2mo, cloth Price, $1.50, 

These volames are narratives of the adventures of the pioneer? that first 
cro«?efi the Alleghanies and settled in what ie now Tennessee, under the leader- 
ship of two remarkable men, James Kobertpon and John Sevier. Sevier'is career 
was certainly remarkable, ae much so as that of Daniel Boone. The title of the 
first book is derived from the fact that a body of hardy volunteers, under the 
leadership of Sevier, crossed the mountains to nph<.ld the patriotic causf. and by 
their timely arrival secured the defeat of the British army at King's Mountain. 

From a paper adopted by the. Tennessee HistCfrical Society. 

"Mr. Edmund Kirke sojourned for several years in Western North Carolina 
and in East Tennessee, and, being fascinated witli our previous history, he 
became diliirent in the collection of lacte, which are here embodied in a most 
interesting volume. The matter does not conbist of mere sketches or lecitals, 
but relates a hisi.iry, and in a style elegant in expression and suited to the dig- 
nity of the subject.""' 

From John Sevier, of Tennessee, a great-grandson of Governor Sevier. 

" Your book came to me by accident I read it. and found the facts all related 
just as they have been told to me bv father and t:randiaiher. but clothed in a 
style and language that must make the work as entertaining as a romance." 

Frrni Hon. John M. Lea, Prendent of the Tennessee Historical Society, 

"The 'Rear-Guard' hns given a fresh interest in the name of Governor 
Sevier, and, in common with all the people of Teiinpssee. we are under obliga- 
tions to you for the laithful and fascinating nsanuer in which you have related 
oar pioneer history." 

" Its episoths are as fascinating as the legends of the Scottish TTighlandB, 
or middle-a_'e chivalry; and it is speciallv a desirable book for boys, though 
thoui^htfui men will finri its padres full of fads and hints as to the building up of 
great commonwealths.'" — 7%« Eclectic Magazine. 

''The story of a patriot like John Sevier, tdd as woll as Mr. Gilmore tells it, 
must make the ideals of the vouns citizen— and the o!d one. too. for that matter 
— hiirherand purer ; snch hooks show that the foreim idea of gentlettanhood is 
not, after all. the only true \At2i.'"—T?ie North American Beruw. 

"John Sevier was a man with as strorg and marked a persorality as Mr. 
Gilmore could have desired. He was commanding, oriiinal. and pictnr^-t-^que. 
As such Mr. Gilmore paints him. and. in doing so, puts into his book ore of the 
prime attractions of romance, the attraction of a powerful and marked per- 
RonaAity:'—T?ie New York Independent. 




from the Revolution to the Civil War. By John Bach McMaster. 
To be completed in five volumes. Vols. I and II, 8vo, cloth, gilt 
top, $2.50 each. 

Scope op the Work.— /n the course of this narrative much is written of wars, 
conspiracies, and rebellions ; of Presiderds, of Congresses, of embassies, of treaties, 
of the amlition of -political leaders, and of the rise of great parties in the nation. 
Yet the history of the people is the chief theme. At evei-y stage of the splendid 
progress which separates the America of Washington and Adams from the Amer- 
ica in which we live, it has been the author^s purpose to describe the dress, the 
occupations, the amusements, the literary canons of the times ; to note the changes 
of manners and morals ; to trace the growth of that humane spirit which abol- 
ished punishment for debt, and reformed the discipline of prisons and of jails ; to 
recount the manifold improvements which, in a thousand ways, have multiplied 
the conveniences of life and ministered to the happiness qfaur race; to describe the 
rise and progress of that long series of mechanical inventions and discoveries which 
is now the admiration of the world, and our just pride and boast ; to tell how, 
under the benign influence of liberty and peace, there sprang up, in the ccmrse of a 
single century, a prosperity unparalleled in the annals of human affairs. 

"The pledge £;iven by Mr. McMaeter, that ' the history of the people shall be 
the chief tlierae.' is punctiliously and satisfactorily fulfilled. He carries out his 
promise in a complete, vivid, and delightful way. We should add that the liter- 
ary execution of I he work is worthy of the iuaetatigable industry and unceasing 
viirilance with which the stores of historical material have beer, accumulated, 
weio^hed, and sifteil. The cardinal qualities of style, lucidity, animation, and 
enirgv, are everywhere present. Seldom, indeed, lias a book, in which matter 
of substantial value has been so happily united to attractiveness of form, been 
offered by an American author to his fellow-citizens." — New York Sun. 

" To recount the marvelous progress of the American people, to describe 
their life, thinr literature, their occupations, their amusements, is Mr. McMaster's 
object. His theme is an important one, and we conirratulate him on his success. 
It has rarely been our province to notice a book with so many excellences and 
80 few defects."— xVew York Herald. 

" Mr. McMaster at once shows his gi-a»p of the various themes and his special 
capacity as a historian of the people. His aim is high, but he hits the mark."— 
New lark Journal of Commerce. 

"I have had to read a good deal of history in my day, but I find so much 
freshness in the way Professor McMaster has treated his subject that it is quite 
like a new s.ioTj.''''— Philadelphia Press. 

"Mr. McMaster's success as a writer seems to us distinct and decisive. In 
the first place he has written a remarkably readable history. His style is clear 
and vi,'orons, if not always condensed. He has the faculty of felicitous C('m- 
parison and ccmfrast in a marked degree. Mr McMaster has produced one of 
the most spirited of histories, a book which will be widely read, and the enter- 
taining quality of which is conspicuous beyond that of any work of its kind."— 
Boston Gazette. 

New York : D. APPLETON & CO., 1, 3, & 5 Bond Street.